With the COVID-19 pandemic still at large, people have begun paying close attention to risk factors that jeopardize their overall health status.
Nutrition and the Immune System
The immune system plays an integral role in this and is influenced by many modifiable and nonmodifiable factors, such as:
The significance of nutrition in the robust immune system is manifested especially during instances of malnutrition. An optimal supply of nutrients is required for the biosynthesis of immune factors and immune cell proliferation. Nutrient deficiencies can increase the risk of infectious diseases and aggravate consequent symptom severity and complications if infected. This is why an adequate, balanced diet containing a diversity of foods, nutrients, and non-nutrient chemicals is paramount for immune defense against infectious diseases. Micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, dietary fibers and non-nutrient phytochemicals (such as polyphenolics), collectively function to support the development and maintenance of the immune system. It is important to note that the abundance of protein in the diet is essential for immunity also, as it is required for the proliferation of immune cells.
Recently, we published a review discussing the contribution of oat nutrients, including dietary fiber (β-glucans), copper, iron, selenium, and zinc, polyphenolics (ferulic acid and avenanthramides), and proteins (glutamine) to optimizing the immune system’s response to infections. Oats are a renowned source of dietary fibers and β-glucans. While these molecules may directly modulate the immune system, they can also improve immunity through indirect mechanisms such as by modifying the gut microbiota composition and functions, and by increasing the production of SCFAs. Polyphenolics, including ferulic acid and avenanthramides in oats, can help optimize the immune system by:
- regulating inflammatory response
- boosting the antioxidant defense system
- modulating the gut microbiota
Glutamine, an amino acid known for reducing infectious complications, supports the consumption of oats for maintaining the pool of glutamine for immunity support.
The information discussed in the review is significant, particularly during the global COVID-19 pandemic; people are more likely to consume energy-dense food high in fats, refined carbohydrates, and sodium, which collectively impair the immune system and host defense against infection.
If you would like to learn more, the full article can be found here.
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