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Public health recommendations largely focus on hand washing, social distancing, and vaccinations to reduce the spread and risk of viral infections, but conversations on protecting public health often lack information on the importance of nutrients to support optimal immune function and to reduce the spread and risk of viral infections. A review published in April, 2020 in the journal Nutrients shows how important certain vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are for protecting the public against viral infections and encourages public health officials to include nutritional strategies in their recommendations to improve public health.
The review highlights the role multivitamins, vitamins C and D, zinc, and the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA play in our immune system, and recommends supplementing with them to improve public health. Research has long shown that certain nutrients are vital to healthy immune function. For example, vitamin C is necessary for the proper growth and function of a variety of immune cells, while EPA and DHA reduce inflammation and lung injury in respiratory infections. Vitamin D is necessary for immune cell function and increases the killing capacity of macrophages, and zinc is required for the formation and function of immune cells in both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Furthermore, deficiencies in nutrients such as selenium and vitamin E have been shown in studies to increase the virulence and infectiousness of certain viruses.
Nutritional inadequacies and deficiencies are widespread in the US, leading to suboptimal health and increased susceptibility to infection. Dietary supplements offer a safe, effective, and affordable option that should be added to current public health recommendations to optimize immune function for the general population.
Vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids are important for protecting the public against viral infections.
Growing industrialization has contributed significantly to increasing air pollution and poorer air quality. Chronic inhalation of air pollution is associated with decreased lung function, worsening of chronic respiratory conditions like asthma, and lung cancer. Particularly concerning is exposure to hazardous particles that are very small in size, known as particulate matter, that penetrate deep into the lungs where they become trapped, causing significant damage to the respiratory system. To make matters worse, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and acrolein can attach to inhaled particulate matter, further increasing the risk for negative health effects.
Recent research suggests that frequent consumption of broccoli sprouts can protect against the harmful effects of air pollutants, including particulate matter, by helping the body detox them. In one study, 260 Chinese subjects were recruited from the Yangtze River delta region in China, known to have high levels of air pollution. Participants consumed a daily broccoli sprout beverage or placebo for 12 weeks, and urinary excretion of benzene and acrolein were examined. Compared to placebo, drinking the broccoli sprout beverage resulted in a 60 percent higher urinary excretion of benzene at day one, which persisted throughout the 12 weeks. Similar results were also observed for acrolein, with excretion levels increasing by 22 percent. The researchers concluded that consuming broccoli sprouts may provide a frugal means to reduce the long-term health risks of chronic exposure to air pollution.
Other research investigating the consumption of broccoli sprouts and air pollution supports these findings. Overall, the detoxification properties of broccoli sprouts are attributed to their rich content of glucoraphanin and glucosinolate, phytonutrients that generate sulforphane in the body, a potent inducer of our body's detoxification enzymes.