What it means for COVID-19, asthma and other respiratory conditions
Increasing vitamins A, E and D through diet changes or supplements reduces a person’s risk for breathing and respiratory conditions, including flu and COVID-19, a study published Tuesday by the journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health found.
People who consumed recommended amounts of the three key nutrients were less likely to develop the flu, colds, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, the data showed.
Research has linked vitamin D, in particular, with boosting immune system function, and being deficient in the nutrient has been found to increase a person’s risk for severe COVID-19.
Vitamins A, C, E and D are all considered micronutrients, meaning they are needed in relatively small doses to live.
“Nationally representative data continue to remind us that micronutrient deficiencies are far from a thing of the past, even in higher income nations,” Sumantra Ray, executive director of the NNEdPro Global Center for Nutrition and Health in England, where the research was conducted, said in a statement.
“Despite this, micronutrient deficiencies are often overlooked as a key contributor to the burden of malnutrition and poor health, presenting an additional layer of challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ray, who was not directly involved in the study.
Nutrition plays an important role in cutting the risk of several infections, although exactly how it boosts immunity is complex and not fully understood, according to the study authors.
Major dietary sources of vitamin A include liver, whole milk and cheese, as well as carrots, dark green leafy vegetables and orange-colored fruits, while vegetable oils, nuts and seeds are primary sources of vitamin E.
Adequate intake of vitamin D through diet is more difficult to achieve, given that it is not found naturally in most foods, though it can be acquired by spending time in the sun. But people often take supplements to ensure adequate levels of the vitamin, the researchers said.