Nursing facility residents who consumed 200 International Units (IUs) of vitamin E daily for one year were less likely to get the sniffles than those who took a placebo. Scientists funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) found that those who took the moderate supplements were 20 percent less likely to contract upper respiratory infections, such as colds.
The study was led by Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, Mass. The findings are important because, due to aging, the elderly have lowered immune responses and incur greater health risks from upper respiratory infections.
The scientists studied 617 people over 65 years of age who met the study's eligibility requirements. All 451 participants who completed the study were residents in some type of long-term-care nursing facility located in or around the Boston area.
About half of the participants were given the daily dose of 200 IUs of vitamin E; the remaining participants received a daily placebo capsule containing only four IUs of vitamin E. To help control other dietary factors that affect immune response, all participants received a capsule containing 50 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for essential micronutrients. Each volunteer was examined for health status on a weekly basis.
Good dietary sources of vitamin E include certain cereals, wheat germ, nuts--especially sunflower seeds and almonds--leafy green vegetables and vegetable oils. The National Academy of Sciences has set an upper tolerable limit for vitamin E of 1,500 IUs a day.
The study results were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Read more about this research in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.