Older people can help prevent infections by taking certain nutritional supplements, study findings suggest.
Dr. Kevin P. High of Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina conducted an extensive review of studies on nutritional interventions for older adults. His findings are published in the December issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Based on his review, adults over the age of 65 can benefit from a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, as well as additional supplements to bring their daily intake of zinc to 20 milligrams (mg), selenium to 100 micrograms and vitamin E to 200 mg.
"Available evidence suggests these supplements are likely to enhance immune function and may boost vaccine responses in healthy older adults, and reduce the risk of infectious illness in both healthy and frail elders," he said.
Published data also suggest that elderly people with recurrent urinary tract infections would probably benefit from drinking cranberry juice daily.
The "right dose" of many nutrients is also largely undetermined, he added. "Some vitamins may be helpful at modest doses, but harmful at high doses," High noted. "For example, vitamin A supplementation in two different large trials of smokers increased the risk of cancer when the presumption of the studies was it would decrease the risk."
Future studies are needed to pinpoint subgroups of elderly that would benefit most from nutritional supplementation, he added, such as the extremely frail elderly or those with underlying lung disease or diabetes.