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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

2010 Annual Report

1. Vitamin E and respiratory infection (RI). Vitamin E has been shown to improve immune response that helps reduce risk of RI in the elderly. However the effectiveness of vitamin E supplementation varies among the individuals. ARS-funded researchers found that one reason for different responses to vitamin E is that there is a small genetic variation in the genes directing synthesis of cytokines (protein molecules involved in regulating immune cell function). This small variation among individuals makes them respond differently to vitamin E supplementation and the way in which their bodies defend against infection. This result suggests that we need to develop a "customized" rather than a universal recommendation for vitamin E in order to gain optimum benefit from nutritional supplementation with this nutrient.

2. Tocotrienols improve immune function in old mice. Alpha-tocopherol (alpha-Toc), the most well-known member of vitamin E family, has been shown to improve age-related decline in immune function. Another member of the vitamin E family, tocotrienols (T3), are not as well known and are studied less compared to alpha-Toc. Specifically, their ability to affect immune cell function was unknown. ARS-funded researchers demonstrated that T3 supplementation also improves immune response in old mice. They also learned that the different tocotrienols have varying strengths and safety dose ranges. This study has identified a new potential health benefit for lesser known members of the vitamin E family. This information can be used to optimize the diet of older adults to boost their immune response against microbes and cancers.

Last Modified: 5/5/2015
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