The immune system protects the body against harmful external agents, and is composed of a combination of anatomical physical barriers, such as skin, mucous membranes, or the wall that covers our digestive tract, among others.
Functioning of the immune system
The immune system has two main response mechanisms: the innate response and the acquired response. Innate responses are produced quickly when a foreign agent is detected regardless of how many times it happens. The adaptive immunity is specific to the lymphocytes or white cells, which detect antigens of the invader and produce antibodies to fight and destroy it, which generates the immunological memory.
Micronutrients: vitamins and minerals
Micronutrients (i.e., nutritionally essential vitamins and minerals) affect and support each stage of the immune response. Therefore, adequate nutritional conditions are essential for the development, maintenance, and expression of the immune response.
Micronutrients play some significant roles, in innate immunity, in maintaining the structural and functional integrity of physical barriers such as skin and mucous membranes, and in acquired immunity in promoting the activities of white blood cells.
What are the properties of Zinc in the immune response?
Zinc is an essential trace element for humans, obtained through food intake. The dietary sources of Zinc are animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, but it is also present in whole grains, nuts and legumes.
It has many properties, including carbohydrate and fatty acid metabolism, fertility and reproduction, cognitive function, maintenance of bones, nails and hair, and vision. It also plays a key role in the function of the immune system, in the production of proteins, in the maintenance of our first defense barrier which is the skin, in the protection from oxidative damage and in the processes of cell growth.
Properties of Zinc
- Keeping the integrity of the barrier as the first line of defense of the body against bacteria.
- Due to its participation in the antioxidant system, since Zinc is composed together with proteins, which produce the antioxidant enzymes. Also, it participates in the production of immune cells such as white blood cells, and this definitely facilitates the normal functioning of our defense system.
In a recent 2020 study by the author Pecora, the role of micronutrients in normal immune function is discussed. It confirmed the role of Zinc in the immune response in more than 1500 tested individuals.
Antioxidant and collagen production
The defense system participates not only in the oxidative response to invaders and proper cellular protection, but also in helping the absorption of iron, which is important in the production of defense cells. Vitamin C also supports the barrier function of the skin by contributing to the production of collagen, a protein that keeps the structure of the skin normal, the first defense against microbes.
The allies: Vitamin C and Zinc
There is evidence that vitamin C and zinc play important roles in maintaining normal processes in our bodies. In particular, their role is considered important with regard to general immune function, oxidative stress, the maintenance of our first defense line, the skin, and cell growth, especially those related to defense.
Therefore, a well-balanced and healthy diet must include an adequate intake of vitamin C and zinc to contribute to our immunological and metabolic processes.
- Carr, A. C. et al. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients 2017, 9, 1211.
- Pecora, F. et al. The Role of Micronutrients in Support of the Immune Response against Viral Infections. Nutrients 2020, 12, 3198.
- Read, S. A. et al. The Role of Zinc in Antiviral Immunity. Adv. Nutr. 2019;10:696–710.
- Wintergerst, E. S. et al. Ann. Immune-enhancing role of vitamin C and zinc and effect on clinical conditions. Nutr. Metab. 2006;50:85–94.