Strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress through diet and nutrition: considerations during the COVID-19 crisis.
The coronavirus-disease 2019 (COVID-19) was announced as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. Challenges arise concerning how to optimally support the immune system in the general population, especially under self-confinement. An optimal immune response depends on an adequate diet and nutrition in order to keep infection at bay. For example, sufficient protein intake is crucial for optimal antibody production. Low micronutrient status, such as of vitamin A or zinc, has been associated with increased infection risk. Frequently, poor nutrient status is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, which in turn can impact the immune system. Dietary constituents with especially high anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capacity include vitamin C, vitamin E, and phytochemicals such as carotenoids and polyphenols. Several of these can interact with transcription factors such as NF-kB and Nrf-2, related to anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, respectively. Vitamin D in particular may perturb viral cellular infection via interacting with cell entry receptors (angiotensin converting enzyme 2), ACE2. Dietary fiber, fermented by the gut microbiota into short-chain fatty acids, has also been shown to produce anti-inflammatory effects. In this review, we highlight the importance of an optimal status of relevant nutrients to effectively reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, thereby strengthening the immune system during the COVID-19 crisis.