Antiviral nutrition: arm yourself against respiratory infection
Can the use of key vitamins and minerals provide antiviral support against respiratory viruses such as COVID-19 and influenza ? Let’s look at what the science says. And provide a number of recommendations for athletes (and anyone else) seeking to stay well in these uncertain times.
With the exponential growth of the coronavirus pandemic continuing unabated, especially in South America, it may well become a matter of when – not if – you become exposed to the virus. And when that time comes, maybe during fall, the lack of treatment options means that having an immune system in tip-top condition will be your best defense.
Regular La Fabrique verticale readers will already be aware of the proven link between good nutrition and high levels of immunity. We also know that nutrient deficiencies or gross malnutrition can harm immune function. However, one question that is less clear to many is whether increasing your intake of key nutrients or ingesting other natural compounds (nutraceuticals) can elevate your immune defenses still further?
An antiviral nutrition
In a recent radio interview in the UK, a senior medical expert stated that “so long as there isn’t a nutritional deficiency present, taking extra nutrients or supplements will not improve immune function in any way”. In this article however, we will present good peer-reviewed recent data from the scientific literature which clearly demonstrates that this statement is factually incorrect.
Yes, it’s very important that the fundamentals of your day-to-day diet are ensuring you’re eating a nutrient-rich diet (see this article for an overview of what this entails). But it’s equally true than higher than RDA intakes of certain nutrients – and perhaps other naturally-occurring plant compounds – can provide extra nutritional support for an immune system that is fighting a virus.
In the paragraphs that follow, we have summarized some of the key findings on nutrients where solid evidence exists for an antiviral effect. Any antiviral effect is of course desirable. If virus replication can be inhibited – even by a modest amount – this can slow the progress of a disease, giving the immune system more time to mount an effective response.