The immune system is weakened by advancing age, often referred to as immunosenescence, increasing the vulnerability to, and frequently the severity of, infectious diseases in older people. This has become very apparent in the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic for which older people are at higher risk of severe outcomes, even those who are fully vaccinated. Aging affects both the innate and adaptive immune systems and is characterized by an imbalanced inflammatory response. Increasing evidence shows that optimal status of nutrients such as vitamins C, D, and E and selenium and zinc as well as the omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids DHA and EPA can help compensate for these age-related changes. While inadequate intakes of these nutrients are widespread in the general population, this is often more pronounced in older people. Maintaining adequate intakes is a challenge for them due to a range of factors such as physical, physiological, and cognitive changes; altered absorption; and the presence of noncommunicable diseases. While nutritional requirements are ideally covered by a balanced diet, this can be difficult to achieve, particularly for older people. Fortified foods and nutritional complements are effective in achieving adequate micronutrient intakes and should be considered as a safe and cost-effective means for older people to improve their nutritional status and hence support their defense against infections. Complementing the diet with a combination of micronutrients, particularly those playing a key role in the immune system such as vitamins C, D, and E and selenium and zinc as well as DHA and EPA, is recommended for older people. Optimal nutrition to support the immune system in older people will remain essential, particularly in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic and, thus, developing strategies to ensure adequate nutrition for the growing number of older adults will be an important and cost-effective investment in the future.
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