Does diet influence the immune system?

Does diet influence the immune system?
June 1, 2020

Does diet influence the immune system? Diet influences our immune system preventing infections and inflammatory processes. Find out everything in this article.

Does diet influence the immune system

Does diet influence the immune system
Does diet influence the immune system

The immune system plays a key role in maintaining health and functional capacity, which is highly dependent on diet. This is because our defense system needs macronutrients and micronutrients for its proper functioning . Learn how diet influences the immune system.

How diet influences the immune system

Numerous studies have shown that there is a clear association between nutritional deficiencies and infectious and inflammatory processes. In fact, there is evidence that the mother’s state of malnutrition, either by default or by excess, can affect the child’s immunity. Especially during the first years of life, even with long-term metabolic consequences.

Conversely, adequate nutrition during childhood and adolescence entails proper functioning of the immune system in adulthood. Thus, we understand that carbohydrates, fats and proteins play a fundamental role in the immune response.


Carbohydrates (HC) are important in the immune system since there is a relationship between insulin and these. Which may explain the effect of HC on inflammation.

Consumption of simple and refined HCs has been shown in some studies to reduce levels of phagocytes while increasing levels of inflammatory cytokines . However, fiber from complex HCs (not starches), found in fruits and vegetables, appears to reduce the inflammatory state.


Both the quality and the quantity of protein in the diet can modify the immune response. protein deficiency can alter cell growth and repair and increase the risk of infection due to altered levels of antibody production.

The importance of the protein present in the diet is due to its ability to provide amino acids . Since protein deficiencies influence immunocompetent cells, altering their response capacity. Diets low in the amino acids tryptophan and phenylalanine have been shown to decrease antibody synthesis.

Check it out: the 12 best foods to boost immune system


It is noteworthy the important role that fats play on immune function . Each type of fatty acid (AG), the main components of fats, has different functions on the immune system of people.

For example, obesigenic diets – with excess saturated fat – have been linked to alterations in the inflammatory response. This leads to an increase in infections, regardless of whether there is obesity or not.

In contrast, omega 3 AGs decrease the most important inflammatory mediators as well as improve the intestinal microbiota. Similar effects have also been described with oleic acid. With less presence of inflammation mediators, there is a decrease in the incidence of inflammatory diseases , such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.

Diet micronutrients and their influence on the immune system

Vitamins and minerals perform multiple functions:

  • Metabolic routes
  • Cell cycle regulation
  • Modulation of cell division and differentiation processes
  • Cellular integrity of tissues , epithelia, and the immune system

Consuming vitamins E, C, A, B6, B12, folic acid and minerals such as iron , copper, selenium and zinc, make us suffer fewer infections due to:

  • Immunodulatory and immunostimulatory effects
  • Protection against free radicals

Deficiencies of any of these minerals or vitamins are related to a deficiency of lymphocytes and other important markers for the immune system. However, many of the immune disorders due to micronutrient deficits improve with supplementation. Although it is necessary to be careful also with the excess in micronutrients since it can produce adverse effects at the immune level.

Does diet influence the immune system?
Does diet influence the immune system?

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Diet to have a good immune system

Therefore, if you want to have a strong immune system that adequately defends you against infections, you should consume:

  • Fruit and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants.
  • Legumes and whole grains to control insulin levels.
  • Animal and vegetable proteins to avoid protein deficiency.
  • Fats from bluefish, nuts and extra virgin olive oil.

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