The pandemic has driven us to pay more attention to our health and well-being. For the past year, we have been faced with the task of ensuring and providing extra protection and care to our family in the best way possible. Given the uncertainty associated with the Covid-19 virus, everyone has tried to learn and evolve with the nature of this condition. Infinite literature from the internet and homemade therapies have become popular on the family WhatsApp groups as preventive and reactive measures. However, in such times, when it’s easy to fall prey to misinformation, the need of the hour is to de-clutter and subscribe to authentic information only.
When it comes to Covid-19, immunity plays a very important role in preparing the body against various complications that the virus might cause. Proper functioning of the immune system is dependent on healthy food intake, which needs to be inclusive of the right amount of vitamins and minerals, also known as, micronutrients. Let’s look at what these micronutrients are and how they can help in building immunity.
What are micronutrients?
Good things come in small packages and this is best exemplified by the role that micronutrients play in our overall well-being. The body requires small amounts of micronutrients as opposed to macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, which are needed in fairly larger quantities. The levels of these essential vitamins and minerals such as Zinc, Vitamin A, C, & D need to be maintained in the body to help build a strong defence mechanism.
Vitamins are necessary for immune function and providing the required energy to the body, while minerals need to be sourced externally and play a key role in bodily functions such as bone health, normal growth, and wound healing.
Role of micronutrients in tackling Covid-19
Various studies suggest that micronutrients play an important role in protecting the immune system against the Covid-19 virus. There have been multiple reports about the functions of vitamins A, C, & D and micro-mineral zinc in strengthening the immune response. Let’s have a more detailed look at the role each of these plays.
Zinc has anti-viral properties that can help in improving the immune response to the virus, as well as in the suppression of viral replication. It is also vital in generating the innate and acquired responses to viral infections like Covid-19 and has a direct impact on antibody production which is essential in protection against any infection. Zinc deficiency can increase susceptibility to severe complications related to the respiratory tract for patients undergoing Covid-19 treatment.
Vitamins are present in common food products and need to be consumed in balanced amounts to attain the desired levels in the body. Milk and milk products like curd are known to be common sources of vitamin A. The anti-microbial property of vitamin A can be helpful in the fight against several respiratory infections including Covid-19
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid is a water-soluble nutrient and acts as an antioxidant that aids in protecting biomolecules like proteins and lipids from oxidative damage and impaired functioning. Vitamin C is also known to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines, thereby acting as a catalyst in anti-inflammatory action that is crucial during a cytokine storm as seen in critical Covid-19 patients.
As for Vitamin D, it is strongly linked to a range of factors that are considered risky when it comes to Covid-19. Deficiency of vitamin D in older adults may be an added factor of higher susceptibility to Covid-19. However, at present for the new variants, there are no studies to measure this impact. There is growing evidence on the direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of pneumonia, which is a crucial risk factor in critical Covid-19 patients.
Hence, it is important to note that the simple formula of Z+ A + C + D = Immunity can go a long way in building a strong immune response when faced with critical infections. It is best advised to not ignore the importance of these elements in health & well-being, and consult a doctor or nutritionist to understand the essential components of Zinc, Vitamin A, C, & D to support and enhance the natural defence system of your body.
(Dr C K Ponde is a Senior Interventional Cardiologist. Views expressed in this article are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Outlook Magazine.)