Dietary supplements: bridging the nutrient gap

Right now, it’s more important than ever to have a healthy immune system. A healthy and balanced diet, and daily dietary supplements can play a role in safeguarding our bodies against everything from viruses and bacteria to allergens; and it’s a topic we know well at DSM as the world’s leading supplier of nutritional ingredients. So, allow us to explain…

How does our natural defence mechanism work?

Our immune system fulfils two important functions. First, it protects us from the risk of infection and illness; and secondly, it can reduce the severity of that illness - and help us to recover faster. Specifically, our immune system includes two lines of defence:

Innate immune system

Our innate immune system reacts quickly to a wide range of different threats in a non-specific way.

Adaptive immune system

Our adaptive immune system reacts slower, but is more specific (and effective) in the way it tackles those threats.

The key to a great immune system lies in ensuring that both operate in harmony; and one great way to achieve that is by regularly taking micronutrients and dietary supplements. 

Supporting our immune function

When it comes to getting the balance right, we see an increasing relationship between immunity, inflammation and gut health in contributing to a healthier life.

Several micronutrients such as vitamins A, B6, C, D and E, omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), selected trace elements, such as zinc and selenium, and polyphenols support the development and maintenance of a strong immune system. Therefore, adequate intake and consumption of these micronutrients are an effective and efficient way to boost immunity.

Vitamin D

Often referred to as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D plays an important role in our immune system. How so? Well, our immune cells contain ‘vitamin D receptors’ that help this nutrient perform various essential tasks in both our innate and adaptive immune systems.

Vitamin D isn’t naturally found in many foods and drinks, so taking it in the form of a daily supplement is an easy and effective solution. In fact, a recent study2 showed that taking 3-4 times the Regular Daily Allowance of vitamin D results in a more effective immune system with a reduced risk of upper respiratory conditions.

DSM is the world’s largest manufacturer of vitamin D3.

Laying the foundation for healthy immune responses

The same mechanisms that generate an effective immune response to infection, also come into play to generate immunity to vaccination. Vaccines stimulate the immune system in the same way as infections do. A body of research demonstrates the important role of nutrient supplementation in supporting immune health and better assuring robust vaccine response. These findings are particularly significant in today’s climate where a majority of consumers worry about their immunity.

Join our webinar

On 20 May 15:00 - 15:45 CEST we will be discussing the latest research that makes a strong case that an optimal nutrient status is key to laying the foundation for healthy immune and vaccine response. We will be joined by Prof. Philip Calder, Head of Human Development & Health, Professor of Nutritional Immunology at the University of Southampton.

Omega-3

There’s fast-emerging evidence that long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) help optimize immune function. In particular, omega-3s act as anti-inflammatory agent that manages how the body reacts to infection. Furthermore, benefits of omega-3s have even been seen in patients with rheumatoid arthritis; as well as those living with asthma and allergic respiratory diseases3.

Omega-3s are derived from oily fish like salmon and now increasingly from micro algae - a sustainable nutrient source, ideal for vegetarians and vegans.

DSM is the global leader in nutritional lipids like omega-3s.

Probiotics

We hear a lot about gut health these days - and now there’s emerging evidence of its connection to supporting our immunity. The human gut is home to trillions of microorganisms. These in turn play a key role in maintaining our immune system, for example by developing a tolerance to the many toxins that pass through our gut - and also acting as a barrier to potential threats.  

Based on emerging science, probiotics have the potential to restore the balance of microbes in the gut.

DSM offers a broad family of probiotics.

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A quick word on RDAs

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) was established for healthy people to ‘meet their basic needs’. However, the immune system is not necessarily included in these basic needs – a higher dosage may be needed if you’re sick. In short, it may be beneficial to consider a daily dose above the RDA4.

Take vitamin C, for example. Recent research suggests that while the current RDA for healthy people should prevent scurvy, it may not be enough to give us the optimal health benefits associated with vitamin C.

If you happen to be suffering from a cold, you may need to take vitamin C at dosages up to several times the RDA5.

Footnotes

1) Strong scientific evidence substantiated by EFSA health claims.
2) A. Ascherio et al., ‘Vitamin D and multiple sclerosis’, Lancet Neurology, vol. 9, no. 6, 2010, p. 599-612.
3) A. A. Berbert et al., ‘Supplementation of fish oil and olive oil in patients with rheumatoid arthritis’, Nutrition, vol. 21, no. 2, 2005, p. 131-136.
T. D. Mickleborough et al., ‘Dietary polyunsaturated fatty acids in asthma- and exercise-induced bronchoconstriction’, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 59, no. 12, 2005, p. 1335-1346.
L. C. Echeverri Tirado & L. M. Yassin, ‘B cell interactions in lipid immune responses: implications in atherosclerotic disease’, Lipids in Health and Disease, vol. 16, no. 30, 2017, p. 1-11.
4) German Nutrition Society (DGE), ‘New reference values for vitamin C intake’, annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, vol. 67, no. 1, 2015.
Australian Government Department of Health, ‘Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand’ Ministry of Health, 2005.
5) Op. cit. (Elste et al.).

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