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Journal: Nutrients


The world is in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health measures that can reduce the risk of infection and death in addition to quarantines are desperately needed. This article reviews the roles of vitamin D in reducing the risk of respiratory tract infections, knowledge about the epidemiology of influenza and COVID-19, and how vitamin D supplementation might be a useful measure to reduce risk. Through several mechanisms, vitamin D can reduce risk of infections. Those mechanisms include inducing cathelicidins and defensins that can lower viral replication rates and reducing concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines that produce the inflammation that injures the lining of the lungs, leading to pneumonia, as well as increasing concentrations of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Several observational studies and clinical trials reported that vitamin D supplementation reduced the risk of influenza, whereas others did not. Evidence supporting the role of vitamin D in reducing risk of COVID-19 includes that the outbreak occurred in winter, a time when 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) concentrations are lowest; that the number of cases in the Southern Hemisphere near the end of summer are low; that vitamin D deficiency has been found to contribute to acute respiratory distress syndrome; and that case-fatality rates increase with age and with chronic disease comorbidity, both of which are associated with lower 25(OH)D concentration. To reduce the risk of infection, it is recommended that people at risk of influenza and/or COVID-19 consider taking 10,000 IU/d of vitamin D3 for a few weeks to rapidly raise 25(OH)D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU/d. The goal should be to raise 25(OH)D concentrations above 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L). For treatment of people who become infected with COVID-19, higher vitamin D3 doses might be useful. Randomized controlled trials and large population studies should be conducted to evaluate these recommendations.


The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) 2007 stated that the consumption of processed meat is a convincing cause of colorectal cancer (CRC), and therefore, the public should avoid it entirely. Sodium nitrite has emerged as a putative candidate responsible for the CRC-inducing effects of processed meats. Sodium nitrite is purported to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum and other food-spoiling bacteria, but recent, contradictory peer-reviewed evidence has emerged, leading to media reports questioning the necessity of nitrite addition. To date, eleven preclinical studies have investigated the effect of consuming nitrite/nitrite-containing meat on the development of CRC, but the results do not provide an overall consensus. A sizable number of human clinical studies have investigated the relationship between processed meat consumption and CRC risk with widely varying results. The unique approach of the present literature review was to include analysis that limited the human studies to those involving only nitrite-containing meat. The majority of these studies reported that nitrite-containing processed meat was associated with increased CRC risk. Nitrite consumption can lead to the formation of N-nitroso compounds (NOC), some of which are carcinogenic. Therefore, this focused perspective based on the current body of evidence links the consumption of meat containing nitrites and CRC risk.


Evidence from observational studies is accumulating, suggesting that the majority of deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 infections are statistically attributable to vitamin D insufficiency and could potentially be prevented by vitamin D supplementation […].


This investigation examined the impact of Montmorency tart cherry concentrate (MC) on physiological indices of oxidative stress, inflammation and muscle damage across 3 days simulated road cycle racing. Trained cyclists (n = 16) were divided into equal groups and consumed 30 mL of MC or placebo (PLA), twice per day for seven consecutive days. A simulated, high-intensity, stochastic road cycling trial, lasting 109 min, was completed on days 5, 6 and 7. Oxidative stress and inflammation were measured from blood samples collected at baseline and immediately pre- and post-trial on days 5, 6 and 7. Analyses for lipid hydroperoxides (LOOH), interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-8 (IL-8), interleukin-1-beta (IL-1-β), high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and creatine kinase (CK) were conducted. LOOH (p < 0.01), IL-6 (p < 0.05) and hsCRP (p < 0.05) responses to trials were lower in the MC group versus PLA. No group or interaction effects were found for the other markers. The attenuated oxidative and inflammatory responses suggest MC may be efficacious in combating post-exercise oxidative and inflammatory cascades that can contribute to cellular disruption. Additionally, we demonstrate direct application for MC in repeated days cycling and conceivably other sporting scenario's where back-to-back performances are required.

Concepts: Road cycling, Cycling, Cherries, Tumor necrosis factor-alpha, Montmorency cherry, Road bicycle racing, C-reactive protein, Inflammation


The B-vitamins comprise a group of eight water soluble vitamins that perform essential, closely inter-related roles in cellular functioning, acting as co-enzymes in a vast array of catabolic and anabolic enzymatic reactions. Their collective effects are particularly prevalent to numerous aspects of brain function, including energy production, DNA/RNA synthesis/repair, genomic and non-genomic methylation, and the synthesis of numerous neurochemicals and signaling molecules. However, human epidemiological and controlled trial investigations, and the resultant scientific commentary, have focused almost exclusively on the small sub-set of vitamins (B₉/B12/B₆) that are the most prominent (but not the exclusive) B-vitamins involved in homocysteine metabolism. Scant regard has been paid to the other B vitamins. This review describes the closely inter-related functions of the eight B-vitamins and marshals evidence suggesting that adequate levels of all members of this group of micronutrients are essential for optimal physiological and neurological functioning. Furthermore, evidence from human research clearly shows both that a significant proportion of the populations of developed countries suffer from deficiencies or insufficiencies in one or more of this group of vitamins, and that, in the absence of an optimal diet, administration of the entire B-vitamin group, rather than a small sub-set, at doses greatly in excess of the current governmental recommendations, would be a rational approach for preserving brain health.

Concepts: Niacin, Pyridoxine, Nutrition, Thiamine, B vitamins, Folic acid, Metabolism, Vitamin


Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient for humans, with pleiotropic functions related to its ability to donate electrons. It is a potent antioxidant and a cofactor for a family of biosynthetic and gene regulatory enzymes. Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system. Vitamin C supports epithelial barrier function against pathogens and promotes the oxidant scavenging activity of the skin, thereby potentially protecting against environmental oxidative stress. Vitamin C accumulates in phagocytic cells, such as neutrophils, and can enhance chemotaxis, phagocytosis, generation of reactive oxygen species, and ultimately microbial killing. It is also needed for apoptosis and clearance of the spent neutrophils from sites of infection by macrophages, thereby decreasing necrosis/NETosis and potential tissue damage. The role of vitamin C in lymphocytes is less clear, but it has been shown to enhance differentiation and proliferation of B- and T-cells, likely due to its gene regulating effects. Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. In turn, infections significantly impact on vitamin C levels due to enhanced inflammation and metabolic requirements. Furthermore, supplementation with vitamin C appears to be able to both prevent and treat respiratory and systemic infections. Prophylactic prevention of infection requires dietary vitamin C intakes that provide at least adequate, if not saturating plasma levels (i.e., 100-200 mg/day), which optimize cell and tissue levels. In contrast, treatment of established infections requires significantly higher (gram) doses of the vitamin to compensate for the increased inflammatory response and metabolic demand.

Concepts: Innate immune system, Antioxidant, Humoral immunity, Antibody, Vitamin C, Bacteria, Inflammation, Immune system


Elderly people have increased susceptibility to infections and cancer that are associated with decline in cellular immune function. The objective of this work was to determine the efficacy of Bifidobacterium (B.) animalis ssp. lactis HN019 (HN019) supplementation on cellular immune activity in healthy elderly subjects. We conducted a systematic review of Medline and Embase for controlled trials that reported polymorphonuclear (PMN) cell phagocytic capacity or natural killer (NK) cell tumoricidal activity following B. lactis HN019 consumption in the elderly. A random effects meta-analysis was performed with standardized mean difference (SMD) and 95% confidence interval between probiotic and control groups for each outcome. A total of four clinical trials were included in this analysis. B. lactis HN019 supplementation was highly efficacious in increasing PMN phagocytic capacity with an SMD of 0.74 (95% confidence interval: 0.38 to 1.11, p < 0.001) and moderately efficacious in increasing NK cell tumoricidal activity with an SMD of 0.43 (95% confidence interval: 0.08 to 0.78, p = 0.02). The main limitations of this research were the small number of included studies, short-term follow-up, and assessment of a single probiotic strain. In conclusion, daily consumption of B. lactis HN019 enhances NK cell and PMN function in healthy elderly adults.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Virus, Randomized controlled trial, Antibody, Natural killer cell, Bifidobacterium animalis, Effectiveness, Immune system


Wheat is one of the most consumed cereal grains worldwide and makes up a substantial part of the human diet. Although government-supported dietary guidelines in Europe and the U.S.A advise individuals to eat adequate amounts of (whole) grain products per day, cereal grains contain “anti-nutrients,” such as wheat gluten and wheat lectin, that in humans can elicit dysfunction and disease. In this review we discuss evidence from in vitro, in vivo and human intervention studies that describe how the consumption of wheat, but also other cereal grains, can contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response.

Concepts: Immunology, Infectious disease, Human, Immune system, Maize, Cereal, Nutrition, Wheat


Soyfoods have long been recognized as sources of high-quality protein and healthful fat, but over the past 25 years these foods have been rigorously investigated for their role in chronic disease prevention and treatment. There is evidence, for example, that they reduce risk of coronary heart disease and breast and prostate cancer. In addition, soy alleviates hot flashes and may favorably affect renal function, alleviate depressive symptoms and improve skin health. Much of the focus on soyfoods is because they are uniquely-rich sources of isoflavones. Isoflavones are classified as both phytoestrogens and selective estrogen receptor modulators. Despite the many proposed benefits, the presence of isoflavones has led to concerns that soy may exert untoward effects in some individuals. However, these concerns are based primarily on animal studies, whereas the human research supports the safety and benefits of soyfoods. In support of safety is the recent conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority that isoflavones do not adversely affect the breast, thyroid or uterus of postmenopausal women. This review covers each of the major research areas involving soy focusing primarily on the clinical and epidemiologic research. Background information on Asian soy intake, isoflavones, and nutrient content is also provided.

Concepts: Medicine, Nutrition, Breast cancer, Osteoporosis, Menopause, Cancer, Epidemiology, Estrogen


Increased oxidative stress contributes to development and progression of several human chronic inflammatory diseases. Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C which have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Our aim is to summarize results from human studies regarding health benefits of both sweet and tart cherries, including products made from them (juice, powder, concentrate, capsules); all referred to as cherries here. We found 29 (tart 20, sweet 7, unspecified 2) published human studies which examined health benefits of consuming cherries. Most of these studies were less than 2 weeks of duration (range 5 h to 3 months) and served the equivalent of 45 to 270 cherries/day (anthocyanins 55-720 mg/day) in single or split doses. Two-thirds of these studies were randomized and placebo controlled. Consumption of cherries decreased markers for oxidative stress in 8/10 studies; inflammation in 11/16; exercise-induced muscle soreness and loss of strength in 8/9; blood pressure in 5/7; arthritis in 5/5, and improved sleep in 4/4. Cherries also decreased hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C), Very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) and triglycerides/high-density lipoprotein (TG/HDL) in diabetic women, and VLDL and TG/HDL in obese participants. These results suggest that consumption of sweet or tart cherries can promote health by preventing or decreasing oxidative stress and inflammation.

Concepts: Asthma, Antioxidant, Diabetes mellitus, Vitamin C, Nutrition, Atherosclerosis, Inflammation, Anti-inflammatory