Vitamin C, zinc and co.: Do they really strengthen the immune system?

Vitamins and minerals are important. Vitamin C and zinc in particular are said to have a strengthening effect on the immune system. Do they really help?

Many people believe that vitamin C and zinc help ward off a cold. Others, however, see this more critically. because the scientific evidence base is thin.

Why does the body need vitamin C and zinc?

Vitamins and minerals are vital for the body. They are involved in a variety of biochemical processes in the body. The trace element zinc, for example, promotes cell growth, supports wound healing, regulates various metabolic and reproductive processes and is involved in the immune system.

Vitamin C also controls various metabolic processes. Among other things, the vitamin, also known as ascorbic acid, supports the development of connective tissue, bones and teeth, has an antioxidant effect and thus protects the body’s cells from damage. During the digestive process, it promotes the absorption of iron.

“The body needs vitamins and minerals for an optimally functioning immune system. The important vitamins for the immune system include vitamin C, vitamins A, D, E and some B vitamins. Vitamin C, for example, is one of them, as are vitamin E and carotenoids the antioxidants. They support the body’s protective mechanism,” says qualified ecothrophologist Silke Restemeyer from the German Nutrition Society. V. (DGE). “The minerals are mainly zinc, copper, iron and selenium, which support our immune system in defending itself against bacteria and viruses.”

Strengthen the immune system: Is nutrition sufficient?

In order for the immune defense to benefit from the nutrients, according to the nutrition expert, it is important to eat as colorfully and freshly as possible so that the body is constantly supplied with all the important nutrients. An isolated vitamin or mineral alone is not enough. What is important is an overall good supply of nutrients.

A balanced diet usually ensures a good immune system. This includes predominantly plant-based foods such as vegetables, salads, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grain products and fruit, supplemented by small amounts of animal foods such as milk and dairy products, lean meat, fish and eggs.

“Even during a cold, you should make sure to supply your body with nutrients. Warm soups with vegetables and/or chicken are a good way to supply the body with fluids and nutrients and to compensate for mineral losses caused by heavy sweating. Chicken meat, for example, contains plenty of zinc “, Vegetables like peppers, potatoes and Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin C,” says Restemeyer.

Vitamin C and zinc as capsules – does that help?

DGE experts are skeptical about the preventative use of vitamin C or combination preparations with zinc to strengthen the immune system or ward off infections.

“It has not been scientifically proven that taking vitamin C or zinc supplements can prevent colds in the general population,” says Restemeyer. “Therefore, there is no reason to routinely take such preparations to ward off infections. Taking high-dose vitamin C may be justified under heavy physical strain or in a cold environment. In this case, taking them can potentially reduce the risk of illness. It is advisable to consult a doctor In any case, it is advisable – also to prevent overdoses.”

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends not exceeding a daily maximum amount of 250 milligrams of vitamin C per dietary supplement product. According to the BfR, a daily maximum amount of zinc in a dietary supplement should not exceed 6.5 milligrams.

Get healthy faster with vitamin C and zinc?

You shouldn’t have too high hopes that taking vitamin C and zinc supplements will help a cold go away more quickly. Scientists from the international research network Cochrane Collaboration have evaluated controlled studies. The result: an increased vitamin C intake can only have a small effect on the duration of a cold, if at all.

On average, participants were sick for six or six and a half days instead of seven days. In study participants who only took vitamin C when the cold began, the duration of the illness was not shortened.

Washing your hands protects against cold pathogens

According to experts, washing your hands is much more effective than taking high doses of vitamin C or zinc. Hands regularly come into contact with surfaces that many people touch: handrails on public transportation, stair railings, doorknobs, light switches, ATMs, and more. Washing your hands regularly helps reduce the transmission of cold viruses. Experts assume that up to 80 percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted via hands.

The fact that hand washing actually reduces the frequency of infectious diseases has been examined and confirmed in many studies. For example, based on various studies, it is estimated that thorough hand washing with soap and water can almost halve the risk of diarrhea. It is important to use soap and the amount of friction when soaping your hands. The water temperature itself doesn’t matter.

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