Nutrition and immunity at all ages.

Our health and wellbeing have always been important. However, in this unprecedented time, a lack of either can have serious acute and long-term consequences. The influence of our diet and nutrition in relation to our health has never been more in focus. This is especially true in respect to our immune system and its function.

The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), a founding member of The Academy of Nutrition Sciences. Which is a joint initiative between the Association for Nutrition (AfN), the British Dietetic Association (BDA), the Nutrition Society (NS) and BNF, provides a collective voice for evidence-based nutrition science.1

The BNF have recently provided a range of guides to nutrition and immunity at all ages. These resources can help us “discover which nutrients and the foods they are found in are important at every age to help support a healthy immune system.2 The resource is split into three age bands: Children (10 years and younger), Teens and Adults, and Older Adults.

Nutrition and Immunity for Children (10 years and younger)

Common across all three guides is the importance of key nutrients (vitamins and minerals), in addition to protein and omega-3 fats, in relation to supporting our immune systems to work normally. The nutrients of importance and interest are Vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D and the nutrients Copper, Folate, Iron, Selenium and Zinc. As with all recommendations, ideally, we need to ensure that we are regularly consuming a balanced, diverse, nutrient dense, whole food diet. Such an approach will support all our bodily system, not just our immunity. Unfortunately, though it is generally accepted that nutrient inadequacies and deficiencies are widespread in the general population.3

The Nutrition Source4 (NS; a leading authority on food and nutrition knowledge, providing science-based guidance for healthy living. Based at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition) indicates that “eating a good quality diet can prevent deficiencies in these nutrients. However, there are certain populations and situations in which one cannot always eat a variety of nutritious foods, or who have increased nutrient needs. In these cases, a vitamin and mineral supplement may help to fill nutritional gaps.”

Nutrition and Immunity for Teens and Adults

The NS further indicate our body’s immune response can be altered by a deficiency of a single nutrient. These crucial nutrients help our immune system in numerous ways which include working as an antioxidant to protect our healthy cells, supporting growth and activity of our immune cells, and producing essential antibodies. 

Each of the BNF resources summarise good food options for each of the nutrients as well as a “did you know?” section. We can use this simple information and share it with our friends and family to support our food choices. Helping us to help ourselves.

Nutrition and Immunity for Older Adults

Bigvits source and stock a wide variety of micronutrients that support our active immune system. Discussion regarding the benefits of many of these key nutrients are detailed within other blog posts. However, for ease a brief overview of each related to supporting our immune system are summarised here.

Vitamin A is known to play an important role in enhancing immune function, and having a regulatory function in both cellular and humoral immune responses.5

The Vitamins B6 and B12 belong the B group and have several functions in addition to being co-factors to enzymes involved in energy metabolism they play an important role for our immune systems.6 Furthermore, folate deficiency could lead to many clinical alterations including reduced immune function.7

Ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, is one of the most important antioxidants of the water-soluble environment in the body. As such, it plays an essential role in protecting the immune cells from oxidative damage.8

Vitamin D is known to play a role by stimulating maturation of several cells including immune ones. A significant number of healthy individuals have been found to be with decreased levels of Vitamin D.9 Vitamin E has shown impacts on various branches of the immune system and plays an important role  during immune reactions by protecting cells and functional components like proteins and fatty acids from damage.10

In Summary: Optimising our immune system is essential for our continued health and wellbeing. Ensuring we are obtaining all the nutrients we require is pivotal. Eating a good quality diet can prevent deficiencies in these key nutrients.  Supplementation may help to fill our nutritional gaps.

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If you have a specific interest or would like to see a particular product or nutrient reviewed, please email your request to Educating our customers in respect to the importance of nutrients and the idiosyncrasies between formulas and products is at the heart of what we want to achieve.

This post is meant for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or nutritional advice or act as a substitute for seeking such advice from a qualified health professional. In order to make the blog series easier to read, I have used a conversational tone in many places with personal pronouns, such as “I” and “you.” This is meant only to make it more pleasant to read, and is not meant to imply that the information constitutes any form of advice, whether personal or general.