Vitamin/Mineral Supplementation, the Aging Immune Response, and Risk of Infection

  • This review was prepared by Simin Nikbin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D., at the USDA-Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111.


Immunological vigor declines with age, contributing to increased morbidity and mortality in the elderly. In addition, the elderly are at greater risk for low intake of several vitamins and minerals known to influence the immune response. Recent studies have shown that supplementing the elderly with single nutrients or mixtures of vitamins and minerals at levels that exceed the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) significantly improves certain indices of the immune response. In one study, improved immune response was associated with decreased frequency of infectious diseases, indicating that nutrient-induced immunological improvement clinically enhances the health of the elderly.