Research suggests importance of vitamin D for good health in the context of COVID-19

As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread globally, proactive measures to reduce the risk of infection are vital since there is still no approved vaccine to block severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) nor drug approved for the safe treatment of COVID-19 disease.

Vitamin D deficiency has been tied to developing severe COVID-19. Correcting deficiency vitamin D status may be a good target in the battle against the pandemic.


A researcher at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute, University of North Carolina revealed that avoiding vitamin D deficiency may help reduce the risk of severe COVID-19.

Further, older, obese, and dark-skinned people are likely to need extra vitamin D, especially during the dark months of winter and spring.

Vitamin D deficiency and COVID-19

The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak first emerged in Wuhan City, China, in late December 2019. From there, it has spread to over 191 countries and territories. At present, more than 62.6 million individuals globally have been infected, with over 1.45 million lives lost.

The current study published in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention, and Health, highlights the factors that can influence vitamin D status and how these are related to COVID-19.

Recent studies have shown the benefit of vitamin D in fighting respiratory infections. The active vitamin D metabolite, 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25D), is produced in immune cells and triggers the expression of several genes tied to a healthy immune response.

The metabolite is also linked to the maturation and recruitment of macrophages, increased production of cathelicidin and other antibacterial peptides, and phagocytosis promotion.

However, in some areas worldwide, especially in places at a latitude greater than 40° and includes the United Kingdom, Central and Northern Europe, Canada and the northern half of the United States, and similarly some regions in the southern hemisphere, vitamin D deficiency is a common problem during the winter and spring seasons.

People with low vitamin D status are more likely to develop respiratory infections. Hence, amid the coronavirus pandemic, health experts believe boosting vitamin D levels is crucial to avert contracting COVID-19.

Further, a recent editorial noted that countries below the latitude of 35° North and across the southern hemisphere appear to have lower COVID-19 mortality rates than countries further to the North. The study author believes that a lower capacity to produce vitamin D at higher northern latitudes impairs vitamin D status during the cold season, contributing to high mortality rates.

Key modulators of vitamin D status

Several factors can influence vitamin D status. First, dietary intake plays a significant role in determining one’s vitamin D status. Only a few foods, mainly fatty coldwater fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, and salmon, contain naturally significant amounts of vitamin D.

Some doctors recommend vitamin D3 supplementation to boost vitamin D levels in the body. From the diet, most people get no more than very modest amounts of vitamin D.

Another key modulator of vitamin D status is ultraviolet B (UVB) light exposure. Most of the vitamin D in blood comes from skin exposure to ultraviolet light with wavelengths between 280 and 313 nm, commonly called ultraviolet B (UVB).

Getting adequate exposure to the sun will help boost vitamin D levels. However, spending too much time indoors, prolonged cloud cover, severe air pollution, covering skin with garments, and sunscreen can limit vitamin D production in the skin.

Aging can also affect how much vitamin D a person has in the body. Older age can lead to a lower vitamin D status. Older adults have progressive skin thinning, decreasing the amount of the 7-dehydrocholesterol precursor available for vitamin D conversion.

People who have excess weight may also suffer from low vitamin D status. In one study, the scientists found that the resulting decreased vitamin D status is reversible when excess weight is shed.

Further, some genetic variations may also influence vitamin D status. For example, skin tone can affect the body’s capacity to produce vitamin D in the skin. In a study, nearly all non-Hispanic blacks and most Mexican-Americans had vitamin D insufficiency.

The study author emphasizes that while vitamin D supplements’ preventive potential should not be exaggerated, preventing vitamin D deficiency should be a widely shared goal. Since COVID-19 severity has also been associated with low vitamin D status, it is crucial for people who are at high-risk to monitor their vitamin D levels. (Source & credit – Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo)

Covid 19 - Nutrition for Children

COVID-19: Role of nutrition gardens in ensuring nutrition for children

Nutrition risk of children widens during the COVID-19 pandemic; adequate diets necessary for optimal growth, health and development

The number of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in children up to 14 years of age in Odisha were more than five per cent of the cases as of July 28, 2020, with stark regional variations across districts.

The fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for several more months, with a huge burden on the public healthcare system, including in child nutrition and development aspects.

The nutrition risk and healthcare vulnerability of children widened to an unprecedented scale during the pandemic. Nutritionally, an adequate diet is necessary for optimal growth, health and the physical and mental development of children.

Inadequate nutrition and accessibility can result in undernutrition, especially stunting and micronutrient deficiencies leading to infant and child morbidity and mortality.

Nutritious complementary foods like fruits and fresh vegetables, along with breastfeeding can reduce stunting among children. Stunting in early life is found to have long-term adverse effects on the health, physical growth, cognitive development, learning and earning potential of children.

Analysing 36 countries’ maternal, child under-nutrition and survival data, a study published by think-thank Observer Research Foundation, found dietary diversity through nutrition gardens is an effective strategy to improve nutrition status.

Locally available fresh vegetables and fruits from the homestead or nutrition gardens are a major and affordable way of ensuring availability of healthy food, balanced diet, dietary diversity, nutrition and micronutrients.

Several past studies also suggested homestead or nutrition gardens to be effective, innovative and sustainable strategies for improving nutritional standards, household food production, food security, employment of youth as an alternative way to generate extra income and nutritional status of households.

Nutrition gardens tend to improve the household consumption of nutritious food, promote dietary diversity and increase the quantity of fruits and vegetables consumed in the household.

More than four (43 per cent) of every 10 children up to six years were under-nourished, with child malnutrition being a major concern, according to the latest World Bank estimates.

Globally, more than two-fifth (45 per cent) of all deaths in children under five years were linked to poor nutrition. Among the countries, India was second in the number of children suffering from malnutrition.


Overcoming Malnutrition in India

Malnutrition: How to overcome in India

Focussing on women’s education, Access to sanitation & potable water, diet rich in proteinaceous foods and biofortification of grains can curb malnutrition

President Donald Trump applauded India’s achievements in his address at the crowded Motera stadium. These ranged from religious freedom to reducing poverty to the giant emerging economy. This should have made every Indian feel proud, except that only in the next three days, riots in Delhi made us feel ashamed of our poor governance, lack of communal harmony, and intolerance of opposing ideas. In this piece, however, we want to focus on the UN’s top three Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely poverty elimination, zero hunger, and good health and well being by 2030.

The World Bank’s estimates of extreme poverty, defined as $1.9 per capita per day at the 2011 purchasing power parity, show a secular decline in India from 45.9% to 13.4% between 1993 and 2015 (see graphic). If the overall growth process continues, as has been the case since, say, 2000, India may succeed in eliminating extreme poverty by 2030, if not earlier. Also, given the overflowing stocks of foodgrains with the government, and a National Food Security Act (NFSA) that subsidises grains to the tune of more than 90% of its cost for 67% of the population, there is no reason not to believe that India can also attain the goal of zero hunger before 2030.

The real challenge for India, however, is to achieve the third goal of good health and well being by 2030. India’s performance in this regard, so far, has not been satisfactory.

In 2015-16, almost 38.4% of India’s children under the age of five years were stunted, 35.8% were underweight, and 21% suffered from wasting, as per National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 2015-16. The situation is some states like Bihar, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh is even worse (see graphic). No wonder, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked India 102nd out of 117 countries in terms of severity of hunger in 2019.

How can India overcome this colossal challenge of malnutrition? The National Nutrition Strategy 2017 aims to reduce underweight prevalence in children (0-3 years) by 3 percentage points from the NFHS 2015-16 estimates every year by 2022. This is an ambitious target given that the decadal decline in underweight children from 42.5% in FY06 to 35.8% in FY16 amounts to less than 1% annual decline. Similar targets have been set by the National Nutrition Mission (renamed POSHAN Abhiyaan) 2017 for reducing stunting, undernutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls), and low birth weight by 2%, 2%, 3%, and 2% per annum, respectively.

Our research at ICRIER tells us to focus on four key areas if India has to make a significant dent on malnutrition by 2030. First and foremost is women’s education as it has a positive multiplier effect on child care, and access to health care facilities. It also increases awareness about nutrient-rich diet, personal hygiene, etc, and can help contain family size in poor, malnourished families. Thus, a high priority to female literacy, in a mission mode through liberal scholarships for the girl child, would go a long way to tackle this problem.

Second, is the access to improved sanitation and safe drinking water. From that angle, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Jal Jeevan Mission would have positive outcomes in the coming years.

Third, there is a need to shift dietary patterns from cereal dominance to consumption of nutritious foods like livestock products, fruits and vegetables, pulses, etc. But, they are generally costly, and their consumption increases only with higher incomes and better education. Diverting a part of the food subsidy on wheat and rice to more nutritious foods can help.

Lastly, India must adopt new agricultural technologies of bio-fortifying cereals—zinc-rich rice and wheat, iron-rich pearl millet, and so on. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research has to work closely with Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research’s The Harvest Plus programme to make it a win-win situation and curtail malnutrition in Indian children at a much faster pace and a much lower cost than a business-as-usual scenario would achieve.

Global experience shows that with the right public policies focusing on agricultural, improved sanitation, and women’s education, a country can have much better health and well being for its citizens, especially children. In China, agriculture and economic growth significantly reduced the rates of stunting and wasting among the population, and lifted millions of people out of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Brazil and Ethiopia have transformed their food systems, and have targeted their investments in agricultural R&D, and social protection programmes to reduce hunger in the country. Despite India’s improvement in child nutrition rates since FY06, it is way behind the progress experienced by China and other countries. According to the Global Nutrition Report 2016, at current rates of decline, India will achieve the stunting rates currently prevalent in China by 2055. India can certainly do better, but only if it focuses on this issue.

Functional Foods - All You Need to Know - Pristine Premixes

Functional Foods – All You Need to Know

In recent years, functional foods have gained popularity within health and wellness circles.

Also known as nutraceuticals, functional foods are highly nutritious and associated with a number of powerful health benefits. For example, they may protect against disease, prevent nutrient deficiencies, and promote proper growth and development.

This article looks at the definition, benefits, and potential uses of functional foods.

What Are Functional Foods?

Functional foods are ingredients that offer health benefits that extend beyond their nutritional value. Some types contain supplements or other additional ingredients designed to improve health.

The concept originated in Japan in the 1980s when government agencies started approving foods with proven benefits in an effort to better the health of the general population

Some examples include foods fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber. Nutrient-rich ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains are often considered functional foods as well.

Oats, for instance, contain a type of fiber called beta glucan, which has been shown to reduce inflammation, enhance immune function, and improve heart health.

Similarly, fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that help protect against disease.

Examples of functional foods

Functional foods are generally separated into two categories: conventional and modified.

Conventional foods are natural, whole-food ingredients that are rich in important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats.

Meanwhile, modified foods have been fortified with additional ingredients, such as vitamins, minerals, probiotics, or fiber, to increase a food’s health benefits.

Here are some examples of conventional functional foods:

  • Fruits: berries, kiwi, pears, peaches, apples, oranges, bananas
  • Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, zucchini
  • Nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts
  • Seeds: chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Legumes: black beans, chickpeas, navy beans, lentils
  • Whole grains: oats, barley, buckwheat, brown rice, couscous
  • Seafood: salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, cod
  • Fermented foods: tempeh, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut
  • Herbs and spices: turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne pepper
  • Beverages: coffee, green tea, black tea

Here are some examples of modified functional foods:

  • fortified juices
  • fortified dairy products, such as milk and yogurt
  • fortified milk alternatives, such as almond, rice, coconut, and cashew milk
  • fortified grains, such as bread and pasta
  • fortified cereal and granola
  • fortified eggs

Potential benefits of functional foods

Functional foods are associated with several potential health benefits.

May prevent nutrient deficiencies

Functional foods are typically high in important nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and fiber.

Filling your diet with a variety of functional foods ⁠— including both conventional and fortified foods⁠ — can help ensure you get the nutrients you need and protect against nutrient deficiencies.

In fact, since the introduction of fortified foods, the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies has significantly decreased around the globe.

For instance, after iron-fortified wheat flour was introduced in Jordan, rates of iron deficiency anemia among children were nearly cut in half.

Fortification has also been used to prevent other conditions caused by nutrient deficiencies, including rickets, goiter, and birth defects.

May protect against disease

Functional foods provide important nutrients that can help protect against disease.

Many are especially rich in antioxidants. These molecules help neutralize harmful compounds known as free radicals, helping prevent cell damage and certain chronic conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Some functional foods are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy type of fat shown to reduce inflammation, boost brain function, and promote heart health.

Other types are rich in fiber, which can promote better blood sugar control and protect against conditions like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and stroke. Fiber may also help prevent digestive disorders, including diverticulitis, stomach ulcers, hemorrhoids, and acid reflux.

May promote proper growth and development

Certain nutrients are essential to proper growth and development in infants and children.

Enjoying a wide range of nutrient-rich functional foods as part of a healthy diet can help ensure that nutritional needs are met. In addition, it can be beneficial to include foods that are fortified with specific nutrients that are important for growth and development.

For example, cereals, grains, and flours are often fortified with B vitamins like folic acid, which is essential for fetal health.

Low levels of folic acid can increase the risk of neural tube defects, which can affect the brain, spinal cord, or spine. It’s estimated that increasing the consumption of folic acid could decrease the prevalence of neural tube defects by 50–70%

Other nutrients commonly found in functional foods also play key roles in growth and development, including omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, calcium, and vitamin B12.

Uses of functional foods

A well-rounded, healthy diet should be rich in a variety of functional foods, including nutrient-rich whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.

These foods not only supply your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs but also support overall health.

Modified, fortified functional foods can also fit into a balanced diet. In fact, they can help fill any gaps in your diet to prevent nutrient deficiencies, as well as enhance health by boosting your intake of important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, fiber, heart-healthy fats, or probiotics.

Functional foods can be used to boost your intake of important nutrients, fill any gaps in your diet, and support overall health.

The bottom line

Functional foods are a category of food associated with several powerful health benefits.

They can not only prevent nutrient deficiencies but also protect against disease and promote proper growth and development.

In addition to enjoying a variety of healthy whole foods, you can include more fortified foods in your diet to fill any nutritional gaps and support better health.

Micronutrient Premix

Modernizing mineral ingredients: Advances in the nutritional minerals market

The minerals market is growing, thanks to ongoing research, government recommendations, and ever-increasing public awareness of the role minerals play in good health. And as the market grows, all interested parties are changing the way they do business with it. Mineral suppliers are constantly innovating to create more trusted products that are easier to work with, and brands are answering to the constantly changing interests and attitudes of their mineral consumers. We explore the science and innovation behind today’s most popular minerals—but also the challenges in making sure your product can stand out from the rest.

The nutritional minerals market is evolving to meet today’s formulating and delivery system demands.


Magnesium continues to dominate mineral sales. With poor soil health depleting the amount of magnesium available in fruits and vegetables worldwide, magnesium supplementation and food fortification has become a widespread practice. Add to that a growing body of positive clinical research on magnesium, and there are plenty of factors contributing to the market success this ingredient has enjoyed in recent years.

“Many researchers are emphasizing the importance of magnesium for wellbeing,” says Youval Saly, vice president of business development for Gadot Biochemical Industries (Haifa Bay, Israel), a specialty minerals supplier. “There has been a significant increase in sports nutrition awareness and the importance of magnesium in athletic recovery. In addition, consumers are starting to take note of magnesium’s benefits for brain health and not just the body. Aspects of mood, sleep, and migraine support are becoming emerging areas of interest as well.”

One way to distinguish a magnesium product from others in today’s marketplace may be to formulate with citrate-based magnesium. Though many existing magnesium products are made with magnesium oxide, research (old and recent) suggests that citrate-based magnesium is significantly more bioavailable.

Combining magnesium with calcium in a single product may also prove worthwhile, since the two ingredients work together to support bone health. Gadot Biochemical Industries is marketing citrate-based magnesium as well as calcium and magnesium compositions for powders and tablets in response to frequent requests from around the world.

Sea Minerals

The market for sea minerals has been around for at least a decade, but suppliers with vested interest in the category say demand has increased in recent years. Marigot Ltd. (Cork, Ireland), which supplies Aquamin brand minerals from sea water and red algae, says the growth is in part a result of increasing demand for plant-based products. “The fortification of plant-based products with plant-based minerals seems to be a perfect solution,” the company says. CK Nutraceuticals (Oakville, ON, Canada), another player in the category, supplies its Deep Ocean Minerals. The ingredients are sourced from deep ocean water in Taiwan, and they are said to mimic the body’s natural mineral composition.

In sea minerals, manufacturers can get standardized amounts of macro-minerals like magnesium and calcium, but these ingredients come with an attractive, extra feature: trace minerals.

So far, Marigot and CK say they are seeing strong demand for their minerals in liquids and beverages in particular. Each has been active in pursuing clinical research on its own products. Marigot is involved in ongoing studies on joint health, arthritis, gut health, and cognitive health, and CK Nutraceuticals recently announced the publication of an independent study1 on its minerals and potential benefits for high-intensity running.

Trending Delivery Systems

For those unfamiliar with mineral fortification in the health products marketplace, potential applications include but are not limited to cereals, snacks, beverages, powder mixes, infant formulas, tablets, and capsules. In catching up with custom manufacturers, however, Nutritional Outlook learned that a few delivery systems are trending more than others.

“I’ve worked in the dietary supplement manufacturing space for nearly 15 years, and over the last 12 months I’ve seen a considerable uptick in demand for hydration formulas,” says Blayney McEneaney, vice president of sales for dietary supplement contract manufacturer NutraScience Labs (Farmingdale, NY). His customers are formulating beverages with magnesium, potassium, and sodium, while demand for tablets specifically has waned some.

McEneaney’s observations are confirmed by several other suppliers and contract manufacturers we reached out to for this story. In general, demand from product manufacturers is for all types of convenient, on-the-go applications. Gummies are another growing area of mineral business. Like beverages, they appeal to children, older adults, and anyone seeking convenience and/or who has trouble swallowing tablets and capsules.

Stability and Taste

As varied as mineral applications are, they are ultimately limited by whether or not the final product has acceptable sensory properties since certain minerals can have an unpleasant flavor and metallic aftertaste.

In response to this problem, Balchem Corp. (New Hampton, NY), supplier of Albion branded minerals, introduced a Taste Free line of Albion minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.

NutraScience Labs also says it is seeing its own success by joining minerals with natural flavors and sweeteners in final formulas.

Improving the stability of minerals in a given system can sometimes indirectly improve the flavor of minerals. Prinova (Carol Stream, IL) says that it’s able to mask off-notes in ingredients like iron and magnesium by encapsulating or coating ingredients, which also improves ingredient stability.

Transparency and Clean Labels

With increasing access to information, consumers are demanding more of their dietary supplement and functional foods than ever before. Ingredient suppliers and contract manufacturers are witnessing this firsthand in the requests they get from finished product manufacturers. While general label claims such as organic and non-GMO were once the highest standard for many shoppers, Best Formulations (City of Industry) says that full supply chain and formulation transparency have emerged as additional requests.

The contract manufacturer adds that vegetarian alternatives continue to see upward traction. With tablets now losing some of their previous popularity, capsule formulations create a growing need for non-animal softgels, which Best Formulations is now committed to on a large scale.


Sidebar: Mineral Research Update

The library for clinical research on minerals is vast at this point, but new studies are added every month. Nutritional Outlook reached out to Balchem Corp. (New Hampton, NY), supplier of Albion minerals, with a request for new research that could be impacting sales and popularity of minerals. Here’s what we got:

Zinc: In reviewing 78 previous studies on zinc supplementation, U.S. researchers concluded that zinc supplementation in children under five years of age was associated with significantly improved growth outcomes.2 Not long after, a research paper broke with a proposed model for predicting growth response to zinc supplementation in zinc-deficient infants.3

Magnesium: Sara Adaes, PhD, an investigator of neurobiological pain at the University of Porto in Portugal, writes that magnesium is a regulator of neurotransmitter signaling and that it regulates the activity of calcium channels in brain cells.4

Choline: Though not classified as a mineral, choline is often provided in mineral supplements. A recent study concluded that maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester may result in cognitive benefits for offspring.5

  1. Higgins MF et al. “Oral ingestion of deep ocean minerals increases high-intensity intermittent running capacity in soccer players after short-term post-exercise recovery: A double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover trial.” Marine Drugs. Published online May 24, 2019.
  2. Liu E et al. “Effect of zinc supplementation on growth outcomes in children under 5 years of age.” Nutrients, vol. 10, no. 3 (March 2018): 377–398
  3. Wastney ME et al. “A dynamic model for predicting growth in zinc-deficient stunted infants given supplemental zinc.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 107, no. 5 (May 1, 2018): 808–816
  4. Adaes S. “Nurturing the Brain – Part 11, Magnesium.” Brain Blogger. Published online July 26, 2017. Accessed at
  5. Caudill MA et al. “Maternal choline supplementation during the third trimester of pregnancy improves infant information processing speed: a randomized, double-blind, controlled feeding study.” FASEB Journal, vol. 32, no. 4 (April 2018): 2172–2180

Source : nutritionaloutlook