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Effect of vitamin and trace-element supplementation on immune responses and infection in elderly subjects.

Ageing is associated with impaired immune responses and increased infection-related morbidity. This study assessed the effect of physiological amounts of vitamins and trace elements on immunocompetence and occurrence of infection-related illness. 96 independently living, healthy elderly individuals were randomly assigned to receive nutrient supplementation or placebo.

Nutrient status and immunological variables were assessed at baseline and at 12 months, and the frequency of illness due to infection was ascertained. Subjects in the supplement group had higher numbers of certain T-cell subsets and natural killer cells, enhanced proliferation response to mitogen, increased interleukin-2 production, and higher antibody response and natural killer cell activity.

These subjects were less likely than those in the placebo group to have illness due to infections (mean [SD] 23 [5] vs 48 [7] days per year, p = 0.002). Supplementation with a modest physiological amount of micronutrients improves immunity and decreases the risk of infection in old age.

Published on 07-06-2006