Supplements And Their Benefits For Your Immune System


Do supplements really benefit the immune system?

Various vitamins and minerals, often referred to as “micronutrients,” are necessary for a healthy immune system. The main micronutrients that play a role in the immune response include:

  • vitamin A

  • vitamin C

  • vitamin D

  • vitamin E

  • vitamin B6

  • vitamin B12

  • folate

  • zinc

  • iron

  • copper

Many people worldwide have nutrient deficiencies. In the United States, nearly 95%  of the population is not meeting the daily requirements of vitamin D, 84%  does not get enough vitamin E, 46% does not get enough vitamin C, 45% does not get enough vitamin A, and 15% does not get enough zinc. Studies show that even a marginal deficiency in one or more of these vitamins and minerals can lead to impaired immune function.

Many factors, such as stress and infection, can further deplete nutrient stores throughout the body. Meanwhile, aging increases the body’s demand for micronutrients. People over 50  tend to need more of certain nutrients, including vitamin D, calcium, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.

Dietary supplements and immunity

To support a healthy immune system and meet nutritional requirements, a person can make sure that their diet is healthy and take a multivitamin that contains 100% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of each nutrient.

However, many standard multivitamins may not contain enough vitamin C. Researchers believe that 200 milligrams (mg)  a day is necessary for immune health. If a person already has a deficiency, they likely need more of that nutrient than a multivitamin contains.

Although some studies suggest that supplementation with multiple immune-supporting micronutrients is beneficial, more research is needed.

Currently, the strongest evidence suggests that these three micronutrients offer immune support: vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc.

Let’s take a look at the supplements below and their benefits. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin known for its ability to support a strong immune system. In addition to promoting various cellular functions of the immune system, vitamin C helps the body grow and repair tissue, heal wounds, and absorb iron. Studies show that a vitamin C deficiency can lead to an impaired immune system and an increased risk of infection. The human body cannot make vitamin C, so it needs to come from foods or dietary supplements.

The RDA for vitamin C is 90 mg for male adults and 75 milligrams for female adults. However, many scientists believe this is not enough and recommend 200 mg per day for maximum health benefits.

While most studies show that taking vitamin C does not prevent colds in the general population, it may help reduce the symptoms and severity of a cold. Vitamin C supplementation may be even more beneficial for people who perform heavy physical activity. In five trials with 598 total participants, who were exposed to short periods of extreme physical stress, vitamin C reduced common cold risk by nearly 50%.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a critical role in keeping the immune system strong so that the body can fight off bacterial and viral illnesses, such as a cold. Some clinical trials suggest that supplementation of 400 international units (IU), or 10 micrograms (mcg), of vitamin D per day may help prevent the common cold.

Some researchers also believe that there is a link between vitamin D deficiency and an increased risk of COVID-19 hospitalization, though there is controversy about this claim. In some cases, it has been used to minimize the impact of socioeconomic factors for at-risk groups.

Many experts believe that the current vitamin D RDA of 600 IU (15 micrograms) for people up to age 70 and 800 IU (20 micrograms) for people over 70 is not enough to support healthy immune function.

However, the evidence remains inconclusive, and finding the dosage that best supports immune function requires further research.


A zinc deficiency can weaken the immune system by impairing the formation, activation, and maturation of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are an active part of the immune system.

Several studies suggest that low zinc levels can increase the risk of viral infections. Some also show that zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of the common cold. However, identifying the best dosages for supporting immune health and treating colds will require further research.

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