The role of diet and nutritional supplement during COVID-19 outbreak | Adamas University

Covid-19, Food & Diet

The role of diet and nutritional supplement during COVID-19 outbreak

Student Contributors:

Ms. SanchitaBaisya, (B.Sc Biotechnology, Sem- VI),

Ms. Shrestha Sengupta (B.Tech Biotechnology, Sem- IV).

With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in December 2019, a devastating situation has arisen for the entire world. To fight and rescue ourselves from the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to eventually lock ourselves down in our own house. Who in their wildest dream did think of such a situation? But, here we are dealing with it! All we can do is take up healthy habits and improve ourselves as human beings in this quarantine period.

 

Patients under the grasp of this lethal virus have shown clinical indications including fever, non-productive cough, dyspnoea, myalgia, fatigue, normal or decreased leukocyte counts, and radiographic evidence of pneumonia. The new severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. One infected person can be the cause of spreading the virus to 2.5 people in no time if not isolated. Keeping all these in mind, social distancing is the only way out for breaking its chain. Other precautionary measures include wearing a mask, washing hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand wash and boosting up our immunity.

SARS-CoV-2 infection-causing COVID-19 can roughly be categorized into three stages:

stage I: an asymptomatic incubation period with or without detectable virus; stage II: non-severe symptomatic period with the presence of virus; stage III: severe respiratory symptomatic stage with high viral load.

No food or supplement can completely protect us from getting infected by the virus (COVID-19). However, consuming a healthy diet is important for our immune system to function well, and many nutrients which are the component of a healthy diet, influence the body’s ability to fight infection

 

A healthy palette of food is significant for a healthy life.

  • Consuming superior quality diets is always desirable. A healthy diet that generally emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts also moderate consumption of fish, dairy products, poultry and the decreased intake of red and processed meat, refined carbohydrates and sugar.
  • Fats should be chiefly including oils such as olive, canola, or soybean oil. Highly restrictive, crash diets should be avoided and replaced with protein, fat and carbohydrate-rich foods.
  • Sufficient amounts of minerals and vitamins provided by a healthy diet help us to ensure proper numbers of immune cells and antibodies, which are important as the body mounts a response to infections.
  • The beneficial effects of nutrients have been recorded upon patients across all ages, and individuals with pre-existing chronic illness.
  • It is seen that a two-phase immune response is induced by the COVID-19 infection. If a defensive immune response is weakened, the virus will propagate and cause massive damage in cells, induce innate inflammation in the lungs which is in turn largely mediated by pro-inflammatory macrophages and granulocytes. Lung inflammation is the main cause of life-threatening disorders at the severe stage of the disease.

So, we can say a well-functioning immune system is important for endurance. An “activated” immune system is seen to increase the demand for energy during periods of infection, which can be met from exogenous food intake.

We can boost up the immune system by including certain food in our daily diet which has anti-viral property or reduces the risk and severity of COVID-19. A few of them are easily available in the Indian market under essential items.

Garlic: a bulb with assured anti-viral property can be eaten raw, mashed or even added to soups and curries.

Coconut oil: by cooking food in pure cold-pressed coconut oil as lauric acid and caprylic acid present in it are crucial for boosting the immune system against viral. So this quarantine is a good time to explore some South-Indian dishes too.

Vitamin-C rich food: L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is one of the well-known anti-viral agents. Incorporating Amla, red or yellow bell peppers in our diet can be helpful and also summer is here we can always indulge ourselves and our loved ones to a glass of refreshing lemonade.

Herbs: Anti-viral herbs such as Oregano, Tulsi, dried Thyme are great for immunity, and can be used in teas, curries or pasta and such delicacies for respiratory health including mucous problems which can become a “breeding ground for bacteria and pathogens”.

Vitamin-D rich food: A recent review suggested using vitamin D reduces the risk and severity of COVID-19. Egg-yolk, cereals, oatmeal’s, mushrooms, cow-milk and even plant-based milk substitutes like soy milk can help our immune system.

 

Table 1, represents a few required nutrients for their roles and food sources.

Nutrient

Role in the immune system

Food sources

Vitamin A

Known as an anti-inflammation vitamin as it plays a critical role in enhancing immune function.

Liver, whole milk, cheese, orange-colored fruits and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, etc.

Vitamin B6

Impact on both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses.

Poultry, fish, egg yolk, soya beans, sesame seeds and some fruit, such as banana, etc.

Vitamin B12

Helps in white blood cell production, and white blood cells are crucial for apt immune system functioning.

Meat, fish, milk, cheese, eggs, etc.

Vitamin C

Contributes to the immune defense system in both the innate and adaptive immune systems.

Citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, green vegetables, peppers, and tomatoes, etc.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D can control innate and adaptive immune responses.

Fortified breakfast cereals, dairy products, oily fish, egg, etc.

Folic Acid

And

Cobalamin

Folic acid (vitamin B9) and cobalamin (vitamin B12) play a crucial role in the healthy balance of the immune system. An insufficient amount of folic acid and B12 can radically alter immune responses by disturbing the production of nucleic acid, protein synthesis, inhibiting the activity of immune cells.

Green vegetables, pulses, oranges, berries, nuts and seeds, cheeses, bread, etc.

 

Vitamin B12 can be obtained from animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products

Iron

There is an interaction between iron grade and immune function, predominantly for the incidence and course of infectious disease.

Red meat, offal, beans, pulses, nuts, fish, whole wheat bread and dried fruits, etc.

Selenium

Satisfactory levels of dietary selenium are vital for initiating immunity.

Many whole grains and dairy products, nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, etc.

Zinc

It helps produce new immune cells, develops ‘natural killer cells’ that assists to fight off viruses.

Meat, poultry, cheese, shellfish (like crab, cockles, and mussels), nuts and seeds (like pumpkin seeds and pine nuts), wholegrain breakfast cereals and bread.

 

Besides having healthy food, working from home, binge-watching our favorite series and movies we can also indulge ourselves in something new and productive this summer. Like, we can meditate, spend time with family, call our friends, sleep early, enjoy the sunrise and sunset, learn something new, cook a meal and bake a cake. Trust me, with these we all shall explore a diverse side of ourselves!

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