Faculty, ImmunoNutrition

Review of WHO Advise on Nutrition for Immunity

Author : Dr. Akshay Alawani, INFS Faculty Head

Social media is booming with advertisements and posts about so-called excellent immunonutrient food products, leaving us wondering about the truth behind such claims. So we are here to clear your confusion and bring to your notice WHO’s advise on nutrition for immunity.

WHO advice for immunity

WHO (world health organisation) has clearly not promoted any such immunonutrient food products, instead suggested to follow a well balanced diet. The statement on the WHO website says “People who eat a well-balanced diet tends to be healthier with stronger immune systems and lower risk of chronic illnesses and infectious diseases (1)”.

Reviewing WHO AdviSe

So what exactly does WHO mean by “well balanced diet”? Lets explore.

We all have heard about the Mediterranean and DASH diets that are widely recommended as general dietary advice. They also have a cardioprotective effect (2,3). WHO’s advice is mostly similar to them. WHO nutritional advice involves the following components:

WHO advises eating plenty of fibrous food like vegetables and fruits, and adequate amounts of unprocessed whole grains and lean meats. Though this seems to focus only on food quality, the inclusion of all these components in a diet will likely give higher volume to the food, and also such food preparations are likely to be less energy-dense (4,5). Moreover, drinking enough water every day ensures hydration (adequate hydration) and also helps in increasing food volume (6,7).

Indian delicacies are usually high in fat. As a vegetarian-preferring population, we eat a low protein diet in general. Fats add taste to the food, but sadly, calories as well! WHO advises the low-fat diet and suggests to focus on unsaturated fats. Such advice is cardioprotective as proven in the literature (8).

Very few nutrients show a prominent association with the disease. Sugars-dental caries and salt-hypertension are two such exceptional pairs (9,10). Sucrose sugar is ‘causative factor’ behind caries, and reducing salt has a positive association with a reduction in blood pressure (11).


We can say that WHO advice is focused on energy intake mediation- better food quality, keeping cardiovascular and general health in check and of course, as the last point suggests, maintaining distance! As the more robust evidence surfaces, more specific guidelines may come out. So ‘maintaining general health’ is ‘maintaining and improving immunity’, is the takeaway here.

stay tuned

In future, this series will discuss solutions to questions like,

What can patients like diabetics with compromised immunity do besides above advise, to protect themselves in the current situation?

Those who are obese or overweight, what can they do in such a situation?’.

So, keep following us and stay safe !

Read the previous article @ https://infs2017.wpcomstaging.com/2020/05/18/immunonutrition-covid-19/


1.        WHO. WHO EMRO | Nutrition advice for adults during the COVID-19 outbreak | Nutrition-infocus | Nutrition [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 1]. Available from: http://www.emro.who.int/nutrition/nutrition-infocus/nutrition-advice-for-adults-during-the-covid-19-outbreak.html

2.        Romagnolo DF, Selmin OI. Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Nutr Today. 2017 Sep 1;52(5):208–22.

3.        Siervo M, Lara J, Chowdhury S, Ashor A, Oggioni C, Mathers JC. Effects of the dietary approach to stop hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Vol. 113, British Journal of Nutrition. Cambridge University Press; 2015. p. 1–15.

4.        Leidy HJ, Carnell NS, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. Higher protein intake preserves lean mass and satiety with weight loss in pre-obese and obese women. Obesity. 2007;15(2):421–9.

5.        Leidy HJ, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. Effects of acute and chronic protein intake on metabolism, appetite, and ghrelin during weight loss. Obesity (Silver Spring) [Internet]. 2007 May [cited 2020 Jun 2];15(5):1215–25. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17495198

6.        Daniels MC, Popkin BM. Impact of water intake on energy intake and weight status: A systematic review. Vol. 68, Nutrition Reviews. NIH Public Access; 2010. p. 505–21.

7.        Liska D, Mah E, Brisbois T, Barrios PL, Baker LB, Spriet LL. Narrative review of hydration and selected health outcomes in the general population. Vol. 11, Nutrients. MDPI AG; 2019.

8.        Liu AG, Ford NA, Hu FB, Zelman KM, Mozaffarian D, Kris-Etherton PM. A healthy approach to dietary fats: Understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion. Vol. 16, Nutrition Journal. BioMed Central Ltd.; 2017.

9.        Koulourides T, Bodden R, Keller S, Manson-Hing L, Lastra J, Housch T. Cariogenicity of Nine Sugars Tested with an Intraoral Device in Man. Caries Res [Internet]. 1976 [cited 2020 Mar 12];10(6):427–41. Available from: https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/260235

10.      Ha SK. Dietary salt intake and hypertension. Vol. 12, Electrolyte and Blood Pressure. Korean Society of Electrolyte and Blood Pressure Research; 2014. p. 7–18.

11.      Zhou B, Wang HL, Wang WL, Wu XM, Fu LY, Shi JP. Long-term effects of salt substitution on blood pressure in a rural North Chinese population. J Hum Hypertens. 2013 Jul 20;27(7):427–33.

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