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.

Here are four potential nutrients that can help achieve it. 

Vitamin C

Not only is vitamin C a powerful antioxidant, it’s essential for our innate immune system - for example by helping reduce the duration and severity of a common cold1.

Specifically, vitamin C promotes the function of neutrophils - the white blood cell that help heal damaged tissues and tackle infections. In turn, this helps provide greater protection by accelerating the response of our immune cells.

DSM has been a leader in vitamin development and manufacturing for more than 70 years.

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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.

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.

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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.

Ask the expert

The role of nutrition in supporting immunity

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Dr. Peter van Dael, Senior VP DSM Nutrition Science & Advocacy

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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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