Research: MEYDANI and others,

Listed in Issue 108


MEYDANI and others, Nutritional Immunology Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Mass 02111, USA,, have conducted a trial on vitamin E intake and respiratory tract infections in a nursing home for the elderly.


Respiratory tract infections are prevalent in elderly individuals and can result in illness and death. Vitamin E supplementation has been shown to improve immune response in elderly persons. However, the clinical importance of these findings has not been determined.


In this randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, 617 persons aged at least 65 years and who met the study's eligibility criteria were enrolled; 451 (73%) completed the study. Vitamin E (200 IU) or placebo capsule were administered daily; all participants received a capsule containing half the recommended daily allowance of essential vitamins and minerals. The incidence of respiratory tract infections, number of persons and number of days with respiratory tract infections (upper and lower), and number of new antibiotic prescriptions for respiratory tract infections among all participants were used as main outcome measures.


Vitamin E had no significant effect on incidence or number of days with infection for all, upper, or lower respiratory tract infections. However for lower respiratory tract infections, the relative risk of any one person acquiring a respiratory tract infection was 0.88, and for upper respiratory tract infections it was 0.81. When only common colds were taken into account, the vitamin E group had a lower incidence (0.66 vs 0.83 per person-year).


This study observed a protective effect of vitamin E supplementation against upper respiratory tract infections among the elderly, particularly the common cold, that merits further investigation.


Meydani SN, Leka LS, Fine BC, Dallal GE, Keusch GT, Singh MF.], Hamer DH. Vitamin E and respiratory tract infections in elderly nursing home residents: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association 292(7): 828-836, Aug 2004.

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