Health and wellness is important to us all. In today’s post-COVID-pandemic world there is a great deal of interest in boosting immunity. In today’s business world companies are eager to latch onto any trend that may help sell product. For these reasons there are hundreds of products being marketed under the claim that they boost immunity, build resistance to infection, fight germs, etc. We all see these ads every day. But is there any evidence that these products work?
Most of the immune boosting products available today are vitamin and mineral supplements. These are based on the theory that poor nutrition may cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies and so, by supplementing we can restore health and immune strength. The theory sounds logical and it is, for people who are significantly malnourished. But that is not the case for the vast majority of people today. If you have the money to buy supplements, or even consider buying supplements, you are almost certainly not badly malnourished (enough to benefit from supplements as immune boosters)! There is NO reputable research (peer reviewed published science) that shows any real measurable benefit for average adults in today’s world. The same finding applies to children. There is just no evidence to support this.
The other category of immune boosters is probiotics. These claim to replace “normal healthy bugs” in your gut, in order to restore natural balance and boost immunity. Once again, it sounds logical and there is a certain appeal to the “natural” approach here. But the truth is that we understand very little about natural healthy resident bugs in our bodies. It is an area of ongoing research but there is currently no real evidence to support these probiotics as immune boosters. One area where there IS some evidence for probiotic use relates to restoring normality after a course of antibiotics, and this may have some merit even though it is not immune boosting as such.
To be clear: science, by its very nature, evolves. We learn. Through rigour and disciplined research the truth becomes clearer over time. It is a process, not a fixed thing. So new research may show new things, in the future (e.g. perhaps there are supplements that have something real to offer). But for now, we suggest you consider these sorts of claims and products to be unproven. If you want to spend some money “just in case” you certainly can, and that’s your choice (many folks do make this choice). But please do not believe there is evidence when there is not.
Written by Dr Colin Burns