This week’s Nutrition News looks at two new pieces of research on nutrition’s role in viral support as well how vitamins and minerals can support our mental, as well as our physical, health during this time.

Zinc and zinc ionophores in viral support

There has been much discussion in the media around hydroxychloroquine and its relationship with COVID-19. While it has been repeated many times that its effects on the virus are unproven and that taking the malaria drug could actually do more harm than good, one article looking at zinc ionophores has explored whether it could be the drug’s impact on zinc that has led to associations between it and viral conditions.

Zinc is widely known to support the immune system and act as viral support and absorption of zinc is just as important, therefore, as the consumption of zinc in supporting the body’s defences. Zinc ionophores are chemicals that help transport the zinc across cell membranes. There is research to suggest that hydroxychloroquine could act as a zinc ionophore, helping get more zinc into our cells and therefore inhibiting viral replication; this recent article looked at what other, potentially less controversial and harmful, substances could act successfully as zinc ionophores in this manner.

One known natural zinc ionophore is quercetin, a flavonoid found in plants, apple skins and foods such as capers. The paper suggests that, if hydroxychloroquine proves to be successful in supporting the body’s defences against viral infections such as COVID-19 as a zinc ionophore, quercetin could then be explored as a natural alternative.

However, as with all research on new viral infections, far more research is needed to form any conclusive results. The author reiterates that these considerations are all hypothetical and were published with the intention of being thought provoking for researchers and scientists studying the virus and are by no means a fully researched recommendation.

Scientists urge the government to consider gut health’s role in COVID-19

Further to the investigation of zinc and its relationship with viral support, some of the UK’s leading scientists have been urging the health secretary Matt Hancock to evaluate the findings of research on the role of the gut microbiome and gut health in supporting the body’s defences against COVID-19.

The professors Glenn Gibson and Dr Gemma Walton from the University of Reading and Dr Kirsty Hunter from Nottingham Trent University have described the research on the link between the human response to COVID-19 and the state of the gut microbiome, as reported by NutraIngredients, as “compelling”, which they “hope is of help to Matt Hancock”.

To be clear, there is no research that suggests that there is a cure for coronavirus, the research is evaluating the impact of good gut health on susceptibility and the ability to recover from the virus. Maintaining good gut health is important for a whole host of bodily functions.

The nutrients that support mental health

As well as looking after our physical health during lockdown and this period of uncertainty, it is important to look after our mental health. As many people are unable to go out and meet friends and family during this time, the implications of a countrywide-enforced lockdown on our mental state is an ongoing concern.

The role that nutrition plays in our mental state as well as our physical state is something that is often overlooked. This article from Examine looks at the various nutrients that are important for mental support. As vital vitamins and minerals are needed for all sorts of functions within the body and deficiencies in these are associated with poor outcomes in physical health, many studies have evaluated the effects of deficiencies on mental health.

For example, as well as its role in immune support, there are several studies that link vitamin D deficiency with symptoms of depression.

While further analysis is needed to better establish these links, there is ongoing research into the link between nutritional support and mental health.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.