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.

With growing interest in immunity and vaccines, we continue to explore the latest science and opportunities for further dietary supplement and immunity innovations.

On-demand webinar

On 20 May we discussed the latest research making a strong case that an optimal nutrient status is key to laying the foundation for healthy immune and vaccine response. We were joined by Prof. Philip Calder, Head of Human Development & Health, Professor of Nutritional Immunology at the University of Southampton.

Want to know more?

We are happy to share our insights on the central role of nutrition in ensuring an optimal immune and vaccine response with you. Please view and/or download our infographics, backgrounder and whitepaper and learn all about how effective micronutrient supplementation can be in optimizing immunity and potentially supporting global vaccine programs to combat COVID-19.

Immunity & vaccine response: what does the science say?

Supporting an optimal immune and vaccine response

Nutritional solutions to optimize your immunity

A story about how nutrients support your health & well-being

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.


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.).


This content does not constitute or provide scientific or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This information is based on DSM’s current knowledge. DSM makes no representation or warranty of the accuracy, reliability, or completeness of the information and as to results to be obtained. Use of this information shall be at your discretion and risk. It does not relieve you of your obligation to comply with all applicable laws and regulations and to observe all third-party rights. The content of this document is subject to change without further notice. © DSM Nutritional Products 2020.

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