Multivitamin Boosts Immune System in Middle-Aged Adults
Middle-aged adults who take a daily multivitamin with trace minerals may improve immune function, according to a new study in Nutrition Research.1 While taking a similar multinutrient formula has been shown to boost immunity in individuals 65 years and older,2 this new trial demonstrates that daily use of such a formula produces comparable effects in adults between 50 and 65 years old. In addition to improving immune function, the supplement also corrected nutritional deficiencies in the participants, which are common to people in this age group.
This year-long controlled study examined 44 healthy men and women assigned to receive either a daily multinutrient formula or a placebo. Nutrient levels and markers of immune function were assessed through blood samples at the beginning of the study, and again at 6 and 12 months. For the duration of the study, participants were contacted every two weeks to learn whether they were experiencing new illnesses or infections. Immune response was also measured by blood tests taken 12 weeks after a flu vaccine was administered.
In the group taking the daily multinutrient formula, there was a significant increase in cells and chemicals that play a role in immune function, compared with the same markers in those taking the placebo. The antibody response to the flu vaccine was 56% higher in the treatment group than in the placebo group, a statistically significant difference. Compared with individuals taking the placebo, those taking the multinutrient supplement had 53% fewer days of illness due to infection. This effect was more pronounced in the second half of the trial, suggesting that it may take at least 6 months of regular use to receive the full benefit of the multinutrient compound. No side effects were reported in either group.
The researchers also found that 43% of all participants were deficient in one or more nutrients at the beginning of the study. By the end of the trial, the nutritional deficit in all but one person taking the multinutrient formula had been resolved, while the nutritional status of malnourished participants in the placebo group did not improve. A bigger improvement in immunity was seen in those with initial nutritional deficiencies than in those with initially normal nutrient levels.
Malnutrition has been linked with poor immune status in all age groups and is a significant factor in the development of various infections,3 especially in older adults. The results of this study suggest that daily use of a multivitamin with trace minerals improves immunity in both healthy and malnourished individuals and that impaired immune function may be improved in as little as six months. This intervention offers a safe, cost-effective approach to preventing disease in middle-aged, as well as elderly adults, which may ultimately lead to fewer physician office and hospital visits and a better quality of life.
1. Chandra RK. Influence of malnutrient supplement on immune responses and infection-related illness in 50–65 year old individuals. Nutr Res 2002;22:5–11.
2. High KP. Nutritional strategies to boost immunity and prevent infection in elderly individuals. Clin Infect Dis 2001;33:1892–900.
3. Chandra RK. Nutrition, immunity and infection. Proc Natl Acad Sci 1996;93:14304–7.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Westport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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