During the fall and winter months, it seems like our immune systems need extra support to help sustain our overall health and wellbeing. While there are several ways to help ensure a well-functioning immune system, making sure that we provide our bodies with nutrients that support immune system health is also really important. Read on to discover which nutrients provide immune system support, each nutrient’s role in your immune system, and the foods and/or supplements that deliver these nutrients.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that includes active vitamin A (or retinol) as well as carotenoids, which are precursors that are converted to active vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is the most common of these carotenoids. Vitamin A has been recognized for its importance in the immune system. 1 Vitamin A also helps control cellular processes in the immune system and contributes to the growth and development of immune cells. 2 Good food sources of vitamin A and its precursor, beta-carotene, include:
• Fish-liver oil
• Dark green leafy vegetables
• Deep orange fruits and vegetables
• Sweet potatoes
National survey data shows that 45% of Americans are not consuming enough vitamin A from their diet alone. 3 A supplement containing vitamin A (such as Nature Made® Vitamin A liquid softgels) can help fill any nutrient gaps from your diet.
This water-soluble vitamin delivers antioxidant activity and helps to support immune cells against oxidative damage by neutralizing free radicals before they can cause harm to cells. † Vitamin C further supports the immune system in its important roles in white blood cell production and function as well as other immune system cells. 4 Good food sources of vitamin C include:
• Sweet red peppers
Many Americans are not consuming enough vitamin C through their diet alone (about 37%),3 making it a common nutrient gap in the US. If you do not consume the fruits and vegetables above, consider Nature Made® Vitamin C with Rose Hips to meet your daily vitamin C nutrient needs.
This essential fat-soluble vitamin, studied primarily for its role in bone health, has also been studied extensively for its importance in immune system health. † Vitamin D receptors are located in almost all immune system cells, where vitamin D regulates and enhances the immune response and is involved in immune cell function. 5
Vitamin D is found in only a few foods, including fatty fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, and vitamin-D fortified milk. Sunlight is also a source of vitamin D, however many people do not meet the minimum requirement of sun exposure (without sunscreen) of 5-30 minutes a day/two times a week.6 Some people have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, including those with darker skin pigmentation, the elderly, obese individuals, and those living in areas with limited sunlight. 7 Consequently, national surveys show that 93% of Americans are not consuming enough vitamin D from their diet3 and approximately 1/3 of the US population, including children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly, are suffering from either insufficient or deficient levels of vitamin D. 8 Your doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine your vitamin D status. A vitamin D supplement is an inexpensive, safe and effective way to ensure you are receiving adequate amounts of this important nutrient. Try Nature Made® Vitamin D3 Adult Gummies.
Vitamin E is a unique essential nutrient in that it is one of the only fat-soluble antioxidants. † Fats are present in all cell membranes and are susceptible to damage by free radicals. Vitamin E helps neutralize these free radicals. † Studies have shown that vitamin E improves the activity and reproduction of some immune cells. 9 Good food sources of vitamin E include:
• Sunflower seeds
• Peanut butter
Vitamin E is another common nutrient gap in the US, with 90% of Americans not meeting their needs through diet alone. 3 A supplement such as Nature Made® Vitamin E 400 IU d-Alpha liquid softgels can help meet your vitamin E nutrient needs.
Zinc is an essential part of hundreds of different processes throughout the body, including the immune response. † The immune system relies on zinc for normal development and function of immune cells. 10 Zinc is also required for certain antioxidant enzymes and protects cells from susceptibility to oxidative damage.11 Zinc can be found in shellfish such as oysters and crab, as well as some animal sources like beef, pork and turkey. If you do not regularly consume these foods, consider taking a supplement with zinc, like Nature Made® Adult Gummies Immune Complex with Zinc.
1. Green HN, Mellanby E. Vitamin A as an anti-infective agent. Br Med J. 1928;2(3537):691-696.
2. Ross CA. Vitamin A. In: Coates PM, Betz JM, Blackman MR, et al., eds. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2nd ed. London and New York: Informa Healthcare; 2010:778-91
3. Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Bailey RL, Dwyer J. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr. 2011;141:1847-54.
4. Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions. Ann Nutr Metab 2006;50(2):85-94.
5. Edfeldt K, Liu PT, Chun R, et al. T-cell cytokines differentially control human monocyte antimicrobial responses by regulating vitamin D metabolism. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010;107(52):22593-22598
6. Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency, N Engl J Med. 2007;357(3):266-281.
7. Balk SJ. Council on Environmental Health, Section on Dermatology. Ultraviolet radiation: a hazard to children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;127(3):e791-817.
8. Looker AC, Johnson CL, Lacher DA, et al. Vitamin D status: United States, 2001-2006. NCHS Data Brief. 2011(59):1-8.
9. Marko MG, Ahmed T, Bunnell SC, et al. Age-associated decline in effective immune synapse formation of CD4(+) T cells is reversed by vitamin E supplementation. J Immunol. 2007;178(3):1443-1449
10. Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med. 2008;14(5-6):353-357
11. Prasad AS. Clinical, immunological, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant roles of zinc. Exp Gerontol. 2008;43(5):370-377
Benefits of Zinc
Zinc is an essential trace element that only recently came to light as important for human nutrition and is active in many processes within our bodies. Numerous aspects of cellular metabolism are zinc-dependent. Zinc plays important roles in growth and development, the immune response, neurological function, and reproduction.
Good Health and Vitamin D
Vitamin D has emerged as the “star supplement” because of its many nutritional benefits for both men and women. Vitamin D plays a key role in the proper absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth. This important vitamin also enhances immune system strength in adults. Unfortunately, too many Americans are not getting enough of this “star supplement.”
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