As the number of administered COVID-19 vaccinations reaches over 500 million worldwide, researchers have highlighted good nutrition as a possible influencing factor when it comes to optimising the effectiveness of the vaccines.
A healthy diet has been emphasised by scientists for anyone due to receive the vaccine, with particular attention paid to plant-based protein sources, a high fibre intake and foods rich in antioxidants. These factors are all considered important when it comes to optimising the immune response to a vaccine.
The bulk of existing research has found those most at risk of undernourishment are children in developing countries and older adults. While these groups are still able mount a sufficiently protective immune response upon vaccination, the extent and duration of that protection is less than ideal. There has been much discussion of later regarding the impact of vitamin D in reducing COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations, but now researchers believe that a single nutrient may have little impact on vaccine response and that an overall healthy diet is the most important consideration.
In one trial conducted on elderly individuals, it was shown that a liquid dietary supplement containing vitamins and minerals had higher antibody levels one month after taking the influenza vaccine compared to those who received a placebo. The recommendations put forward by the study also include a regular intake of dietary fibre, which promotes the growth of ‘good bacteria’ in the gut and can help to boost antibody responses.
Other factors highlighted by the study as helping to improve the efficacy of the vaccine were stress, depression and poor health behaviours, such as smoking, drinking and lack of exercise.
The author of the study concluded that “we could use this time as a wake-up call. These are important health behaviours to keep engaging in, especially as we are preparing to get vaccinated”.
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