Skip to main content
ARS Home » Northeast Area » Boston, Massachusetts » Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #348435

Research Project: Immunity, Inflammation, and Nutrition in Aging

Location: Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging

Title: Vitamin E, immunity, and infection

Author
item Wu, Dayong - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University
item Meydani, Simin - Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center On Aging At Tufts University

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2015
Publication Date: 6/22/2017
Citation: Wu, D., Meydani, S. 2017. Vitamin E, immunity, and infection. In: Calder, P.C., Kulkarni, A.D., editors. Nutrition, Immunity and Infection. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group. p. 197-212.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: A normally functioning immune system is critical for the body to fight and eliminate invading pathogens from the environment. On the other hand, the immune system also protects the body from internal risks such as neoplasia growing within and autoimmune responses that attack self. The immune system exerts its functions by orchestrating the activity and interaction of a variety of immune cells and their soluble products, which together constitute the immune system. Increased risk of infection is the most noticeable consequence of compromised immune function, which is often related to multiple factors including genetic defects, environment, lifestyle, disease, drug side effects, aging, and diet. Nutritional status can significantly impact immune function. Deficiency in macronutrients or micronutrients has long been known to cause impairment of immune function, which can be reversed by correcting the deficiency. Further, for some nutrients, additional intake above the currently recommended, adequate levels may optimize immune function and promote the body's defense against infection, particularly in individuals with compromised immune functions such as the elderly. A good example of this kind of nutrients is vitamin E, a very effective chain-breaking, lipid-soluble antioxidant present in the membrane of all cells. Since vitamin E is particularly enriched in the membrane of immune cells, it can protect them from oxidative damage related to high metabolic activity and prevent lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are high in content in these cells. Vitamin E is considered one of the most effective nutrients known to enhance immune function. A number of animal and human studies have indicated that vitamin E deficiency impairs both humoral and cell-mediated immune functions. Conversely, supplementation with vitamin E, especially in the aged, has been shown to enhance immune response, and in turn increase resistance against several pathogens. This chapter provides an updated review of the research on vitamin E's role in modulating the body's immunity and resistance to infection.