Multivitamin may weaken flu shot's effect in the elderly

July 31, 2001 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Multivitamin may weaken flu shot's effect in the elderly

According to researchers from the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center near Dayton, Ohio taking multivitamins may interfere with the effectiveness of flu vaccination in elderly individuals.

Nutrient deficiencies are common among the elderly, and it has been suggested that this in part explains why flu vaccines are generally less effective in older adults compared with younger people. Previous research has shown that a multivitamin/mineral and vitamin E might improve the effectiveness of flu shots. In this study, however, the researchers found the opposite.

Among 79 adults aged 65 and older, those who took a daily multivitamin for 100 days before flu vaccination showed a poorer immune system response to the vaccine compared with those who took an inactive placebo. The researchers found that the group receiving the multivitamins had a lower level of flu-fighting antibodies in their blood, a sign of the body's ability to fight off a possible infection with the virus.

One possible reason for the finding is that the multivitamin in this study included vitamins A, B, C, D, E, as well as thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), folate and pantothenic acid, but no minerals such as zinc, an important nutrient for immune health. Other recent studies have suggested that multivitamins containing those trace elements do have beneficial effects on the body's immune response.

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