Up Your Immunity: Multivitamin protects elderly from flu

As influenza continues to take its toll, a study by University of Florida researchers shows that nutrition can help seniors better weather the flu season. They set out to determine whether an experimental nutritional supplement would reduce in older people the number of days of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection.

The researchers followed older people, all of them living at assisted or independent living facilities in North Central Florida, through the 1999-2000 flu season. One group drank a daily blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, indigestible carbohydrate – important for gastrointestinal health – and structured lipids, which provide energy and increase the absorption of nutrients. The other group took a control supplement that was similar in protein and energy content, but lower in vitamins and minerals. All participants received a flu shot.

The researchers found that 87% of those who drank the supplement showed a fourfold increase in markers that indicate an individual is responding well to the flu vaccine. Only 35% of those in the control group showed the same responses. Participants who drank the experimental formula also reported half as many days of flu-like symptoms (78 days) than those who drank the control formula (156 days).

Scientists have known for decades that single-nutrient deficiencies can suppress response to vaccines, but this is one of only a handful of studies that have examined the connection between nutrition and actual days of illness in seniors.

University of Florida, Jan 13, 2004