Micronutrients in autoimmune diseases: possible therapeutic benefits of zinc and vitamin D

Vitamin D and zinc appear to be two key elements for the functioning of the immune system. Autoimmune diseases are a big problem of our times and the drugs available drain a large amount of public health service money with questionable benefits.

This review, available in full text, published a few months ago in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry Volume 77, March 2020, 108240 is very interesting


A functional immune system is essential for healthy life. This is achieved by the coordinate activation and interaction of different immune cells. One should be aware that activation of the immune response is as important as its deactivation when the pathogens are cleared, as otherwise host tissue can be damaged up to life-threatening levels.

Autoimmune diseases (AID) represent a phenomenon of immune cells attacking host cells and tissue. Five to eight percent of the world's population are currently affected by 80–100 AID. In recent years, the incidence has been constantly increasing, reaching alarmingly high numbers particularly for type 1 diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and multiple sclerosis. This indicates a higher societal burden of AID for the future. This article provides an overview of general concepts of triggers and underlying mechanisms leading to self-destruction. Lately, several original concepts of disease etiology were revised, and there is a variety of hypotheses on triggers, underlying mechanisms and preventive actions.

This article concentrates on the importance of nutrition, especially zinc and vitamin D, for balancing the immune function. Homespun nutritional remedies seem to reenter today’s therapeutic strategies. Current treatment approaches are largely symptomatic or suppress the immune system. However, recent studies reveal significant benefits of nutrition-related therapeutic approaches including prevention and treatment of established disease, which offer a cost-efficient and trigger-unspecific alternative addressing balancing rather than suppression of the immune system. Zinc and vitamin D are currently the best studied and most promising candidates for therapeutic intervention.

Giovambattista Scarfone

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