Boosting immune system, Vitamins, minerals and immunity

Vitamin and mineral supplementation can play an important role in the maintenance of normal immune function in the elderly. In a placebo-controlled 1994 study, researchers compared the effects of a vitamin and mineral supplement or placebo on immune responses of 56 people, aged from 59 to 85.

Immune function was assessed by the use of the delayed hypersensitivity skin response test after six months and one year. The results showed that immune function was enhanced in the group receiving the supplements but not in the group receiving the placebo. In another study, boosting immune system was associated with decreased frequency of infectious diseases, indicating that nutrient-induced immunological improvement clinically enhances the health of elderly people.

Boosting immune systemBoosting immune system, Antioxidants

Antioxidants are vital for maintaining optimal immune function as they act to prevent free radical damage to immune cells and to the thymus gland. This gland plays an important role in ensuring optimal immune function, via effects on white blood cells and other parts of the immune system.

Antioxidant vitamin concentrations are often lower in those with infections than in those who are healthy. Optimal amounts of antioxidants are necessary for maintenance of the immune response. This is particularly important in older people as age-associated decline of the immune response, particularly of T cell-mediated function, is well documented. The well-known age-related increase in free radical formation and lipid peroxidation contributes to this decline.

Recent clinical trials have found that boosting immune system with antioxidant supplementation can significantly improve certain immune responses, including increasing the activation of cells involved in tumor immunity in the elderly. Supplementation with the antioxidant vitamins also protects immune responses in individuals exposed to certain environmental sources of free radicals.

In a 1991 study, 30 elderly hospital patients were randomly allocated to receive either placebo or dietary supplementation with vitamins A, C and E for 28 days. Nutritional status and cell-mediated immune function were assessed before and after the period of supplementation. The results showed that, in those who had taken the supplements, cell-mediated immune function improved, whereas no significant changes were noted in the immune function of the placebo group.

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