Are you a Health Professional? Jump over to the doctors only platform. Click Here

Vitamin E Thwarts Colds in the Elderly

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Nursing home residents who take daily doses of vitamin E appear to be less likely to develop certain respiratory infections, a new study finds.

Nursing home residents who take daily doses of vitamin E appear to be less likely to develop certain respiratory infections, a new study finds.The protective effect was most pronounced with upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold. But it was virtually nonexistent in lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia.”Our study indicates that elderly people who take this level of vitamin E can reduce their chance of obtaining respiratory infections, particularly upper respiratory infections,” said Dr. Simin Nikbin Meydani, lead author of the study that appears in the Aug. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (news – web sites).The finding is one that could move quickly from the research realm to the real world, she added.”In general, vitamin E is a very safe vitamin and there are not very many known side effects,” added Meydani, a professor of nutrition and immunology at Tufts University. She’s also director of the nutritional immunology laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, in Boston.”The [beneficial] effects seemed fairly significant, not huge,” added Charles Mobbs, an associate professor of neurobiology and geriatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “But still, by the standards of the kind of patient population you’re dealing with, even that small effect, if it holds up, is important.””Given the extreme ease with which vitamin E can be given, that really is something that would have a significant impact in this vulnerable population,” Mobbs said.Respiratory infections are a particular problem in nursing homes, where they can sweep through the population easily and quickly.Although colds are a problem in these settings, “the real issue in nursing homes is influenza,” said Dr. Joseph R. Dalovisio, head of infectious diseases at the Ochsner Clinic Foundation in New Orleans and president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. While the flu was included in the study, the main benefit of vitamin E was seen in colds.Meydani pointed out, however, that colds do pose significant problems, accounting for 30 percent of absenteeism in the general population. “There is no clinically useful vaccine or therapy” for colds, she said. “It’s a major public health concern in general, but particularly in the elderly.”The study enrolled 617 persons aged 65 and over living in 33 long-term care facilities in the Boston area. Participants were randomly assigned to receive either 200 international units of vitamin E a day or a placebo for one year. All the participants also received a multivitamin containing 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance for various micronutrients. Almost three-quarters of the original enrollees (451) completed the study.Fewer participants in the vitamin E group got one or more respiratory infections (60 percent vs. 68 percent for all participants, and 65 percent vs. 74 percent for those who completed the study). Fewer individuals contracted upper respiratory tract infections (44 percent vs. 52 percent for all participants, and 50 percent vs. 62 percent for those completing the study).The biggest effect was seen with the common cold, where people in the vitamin E group had a 20 percent lower risk of catching a cold than those in the placebo group.Mobbs noted that vitamin E, along with vitamin C, is an antioxidant. “I’m not impressed with the data on the whole for healthy people, but this [nursing home residents] is a particularly vulnerable population and that makes it a little bit more plausible,” he said. “You may have some oxidative stress that you don’t have in a healthy population.”The next step, Meydani said, is to see if vitamin E has different effects on bacterial infections than on viral infections. This seems possible because the compound did not have any effect on lower respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, which tend to be caused by bacteria. However, it did have an impact on upper respiratory infections, which tend to be caused by viruses, she said.”We want to do a study where we can look at the microbiology and demonstrate that this is why we saw the effect on upper respiratory infections,” Meydani said.(Source: American Lung Association, Yahoo Health, August 2004)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Posted On: 27 August, 2004
Modified On: 4 December, 2013

Created by: myVMC