Vitamins, Minerals and the Immune System

This is part of our ongoing The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging spotlight. Each day, we will be posting some of the great information that’s packed into our book, The Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging.

Today’s topic:
Vitamins, Minerals and the Immune System

Vitamin D
The many roles for vitamin D that have been discovered in the last decade include contributions to the strength and robustness of the immune system. For example, vitamin D has been shown in research published recently in the Journal of Clinical Investigation to enhance the immune system’s production of small protein molecules that support the body’s defenses against external immune insults.36 Vitamin D appears to interact in a coordinated manner with cells near a new wound, strengthening the ability of the body to protect its integrity while a wound heals.

Vitamin C
One of the major functions of vitamin C is to work with the cells of the immune system to enhance their ability to maintain our immune defenses. The day-to-day importance of this function was endorsed by the Cochrane Collaboration (an independent therapeutic assessment service whose conclusions are relied upon by many health professionals, including the American Academy of Family Physicians).37 After a thorough statistical re-analysis of the scientific literature, this group concluded that vitamin C supports the human immune system.

The intriguing role of zinc as an essential trace element for immune function is well established. Zinc facilitates crosstalk and coordination of effort between the various cells of the immune system and is absolutely required in order for immune cells to rapidly replicate and multiply during an immune response. If zinc is not available in sufficient amounts, immune cell functions are compromised; for example, zinc ensures the accuracy of cellular immune marker recognition by some types of lymphocytes. In addition, the effective response of the white blood cells known as “natural killer cells” is dependent on zinc supplies. Clearly, maintaining strong zinc status promotes healthy immune system functioning. Because the ability of the human immune system to adapt to new challenges has been shown to decline with increasing age, the importance of healthy zinc nutrition to healthy immune system function can have a tremendous beneficial impact on healthy aging.38

Next Best Kept Secrets to Healthy Aging topic:
B-Vitamins and Energy Levels

36. Schauber J, Dorschner RA, Coda AB, Buchau AS, Liu PT, Kiken D, Helfrich YR, Kang S, Elalieh HZ, Steinmeyer A, Zugel U, Bikle DD, Modlin RL, Gallo RL. Injury enhances TLR2 function and antimicrobial peptide expression through a vitamin D-dependent mechanism. J Clin Invest 2007;117:803-811.
37. Simasek M, Blandino DA Treatment of the common cold. Am Fam Physician 2007;75:515-520.
38. Stromberg SP, Carlson J. Robustness and fragility in immunosenescence. PLoS Comput Biol 2006;2:e160 (doi:10.1371/ journal.pcbi.0020160).

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