When it comes to studying nutrients that can help in the battle against COVID-19, the research has focused on the nutrients that have long been known to support the immune system: Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc and probiotics.
But two lesser-known nutrients are being highlighted thanks to new research from India and China. The two nutrients—which most people wouldn’t typically think of as “immune building nutrients”—are Selenium and Omega-3 fatty acids.
There is still no viable therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, so any new information on the benefits of basic nutrients is welcome news to most healthcare providers.
Selenium strengthens immune system
A new study on Selenium from India is not the first to examine a Selenium-COVID link. Two 2020 studies—from China and Germany—already found that patients with lower Selenium levels tended to have worse COVID outcomes.
In the new study, published in the February 2021 issue of Nutrition, researchers in India found that COVID-19 patients in the hospital had significantly lower Selenium levels compared to the general population.
To conduct the study, researchers analyzed blood serum levels in 30 healthy individuals—the control group—and 30 patients with COVID-19 infection. The patients were from Apollo Hospital in Chennai and Vagus Hospital in Bangalore.
Subjects were between 18 to 45 years old. Infected patients had a fever, but were otherwise stable and not on ventilator support.
Blood samples and 24-hour urine samples were collected from all participants.
The COVID-19 patients had significantly lower Selenium levels of 69.2 ng/mL compared to the control group participants at 79.1 ng/mL.
According to the researchers, Selenium strengthens the immune system by increasing the proliferation of natural killer cells and improves T cell response.
“Selenium also reduces the formation of thrombosis in the blood vessels. Blood coagulation disorders leading to the formation of micro-clots are a significant cause of death in patients with COVID-19,” said Shaheen Majeed, President of Sami-Sabinsa Group, who carried out the research.
Omega-3s significantly lower risk of death
The MedRχiv Portal is a medical research website where preliminary research is made available while it is still going through the peer review process. Since the site reports new medical research that has not yet been peer reviewed—or duplicated in follow-up studies—the research is not intended to guide clinical practice.
The study was conducted using blood drawn from 100 patients treated for COVID-19 at the prestigious Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
The 100 patients were grouped into four quartiles according to their level of Omega-3s—known as “Omega-3 Index” using the measurement system designed by Dr. Harris.
The raw results showed that one patient in the highest quartile died, while there were 13 deaths for patients falling within the bottom three quartiles.
Omega-3s battle the ‘cytokine storm’
After a regression analysis to correct for age and sex differences, those with the highest levels of EPA and DHA in their blood were 75% less likely to die compared with those in the lower three quartiles.
Stated another way, the relative risk for death was about four times higher in those with a lowest Omega-3 level compared to those with higher levels.
Though this study is only observational, and not yet peer-reviewed, the mechanism of action is thought to be the well known anti-inflammatory role of higher Omega-3 levels.
Anti-inflammatory nutrients help quell the extreme immune system reaction—known as a ‘cytokine storm’—which has been observed in severe and/or fatal COVID-19 cases.
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