TURSDAY May 29, 2008 — Taking 200 IU of vitamin E daily may help prevent upper respiratory infections, but not lower respiratory infection in the elderly, U.S. researchers found.
Respiratory infections are common in the elderly, which result in increased morbidity, mortality and utilization of health care services.
Vitamin E has been found to boost immune response in the elderly. Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD and colleagues from Tufts University and other organizations wanted to know if the improvement of immune response would have any clinical significance.
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 617 elderly nursing home residents aged 65 or older from 33 long-term care facilities in the Boston, Massachusetts area between April 1998 and August 2001.
The subjects were given either 200 IU of vitamin E or placebo daily for nearly one year. In addition, all participants received a capsule containing 1/2 the recommended daily allowance of essential vitamins and minerals. 73 percent completed the study.
“There was no statistically significant effect of vitamin E on incidence or number of days with infection for all, upper or lower respiratory infections,” the researchers reported in the Aug. 18, 2004 of the Journal of American Medical Association.
Of those who used vitamin E supplements, however, fewer acquired one or more respiratory infections or the risk was reduced by 12 percent. Vitamin E supplementation reduced the risk of upper respiratory infections by 19 percent among those who completed the study and 16 percent among all subjects.
Those taking vitamin E supplements who completed the study were 20 percent less likely to have common cold. For all participants, the risk was reduced by 17 percent. Similar effects were found on reduction in risk of colds.
The researcher concluded “Supplementation with 200 IU per day vitamin E did not have a statistically significant effect on lower respiratory infections in elderly nursing home residents. However, we observed a protective effect of vitamin E supplementation on upper respiratory infections, particularly the common cold, that merits further investigation.”