In a new study, researchers found older adults who took a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement with zinc and high amounts of vitamin C in a 12-week study experienced sickness for shorter periods and with less severe symptoms.
The research was conducted by a tea, at Oregon State University.
The team tested 42 healthy people ages 55 to 75 and aimed to measure the supplement’s effects on certain immune functions.
It also looked at bloodstream levels of zinc and vitamins C and D while taking the supplement, as these micronutrients are important for proper immune function.
The immune indicators, including white blood cells’ ability to kill incoming pathogens, were changed in the group receiving the supplement.
The multivitamin group showed improved vitamin C and zinc status in the blood.
Most intriguingly, illness symptoms reported by this group were less severe and went away faster than those experienced by the placebo group.
The same percentage of participants in each group reported symptoms, but days of sickness in the supplement group averaged fewer than three compared to more than six for the placebo group.
As people get older, the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies that contribute to age-related immune system deficiencies rises.
Across the United States, Canada and Europe, research suggests more than one-third of older adults are deficient in at least one micronutrient, often more than one.
That likely contributes to a decline in the immune system, most often characterized by increased levels of inflammation, reduced innate immune function, and reduced T-cell function.
Since multiple nutrients support immune function, older adults often benefit from multivitamins and mineral supplements. These are readily available, inexpensive, and generally regarded as safe.
The multivitamin supplement used in the study focused on vitamins and minerals typically thought to help immunity.
It contained 700 micrograms of vitamin A; 400 international units of vitamin D; 45 milligrams of vitamin E; 6.6 milligrams of vitamin B6; 400 micrograms of folate; 9.6 micrograms of vitamin B12; 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C; 5 milligrams of iron; 0.9 milligrams of copper; 10 milligrams of zinc; and 110 micrograms of selenium.
One author of the study is Adrian Gombart, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics.
The study is published in Nutrients.
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