Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN)


Vitamin E Improves Immune Function (Click here for printer-friendly PDF)

More on the many benefits of vitamin E

Improves Immune Function

Improves Brain Function

Protects Heart Health

Protects Eyes and Lungs

Protects Against Some Cancers

Benefical to Serious Athletes and You, Too

Most of the above links have information on the benefits of vitamin E that is also found in the CRN Publication, The Benefits of Nutritional Supplements, compiled by Annette Dickinson, Ph.D. Find out more about this publication

A Boston study of 88 healthy people 65 years of age or older, found vitamin E supplementation to improve some measures of immune function. Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging indicated that the best responses were observed in people given 200 mg of vitamin E per day. Read the abstract on the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) website. Further studies, described below, reiforced these findings.


Vitamin E supplementation has potential benefit in fighting upper respiratory tract infections such as colds in the elderly, says a study published in the Aug. 18, 2004 issue of JAMA. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, conducted by Simin Nikbin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D., and colleagues at Tufts University, included 617 elderly, long-term care facility patients. All patients were given a multivitamin with 50 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of key micronutrients; 311 of the patients were given an additional daily capsule of 200 international units (IU) vitamin E, while the control group of 306 were given a placebo. Fewer people in the vitamin E group suffered one or more upper respiratory tract infections. The researchers also observed that those given the vitamin E supplement had a 20 percent lower risk of catching a cold than the participants given the placebo. There was no effect on lower respiratory tract infections. The protective effect of vitamin E against upper respiratory tract infections, particularly the common cold, shown in this study is very promising, especially given the preponderance of such illnesses in the elderly and the potential for colds to lead to more severe illness. As the study authors explain, "Respiratory tract infections are prevalent in elderly individuals, resulting in increased morbidity, mortality, and use of health care services." Read the abstract on the NIH PubMed website.


News wire service Reuters quoted CRN’s Annette Dickinson incoverage of the study headlined, "Vitamin E wards off colds in elderly, study says." The story summarizes a Tufts University study, published in JAMA, of nursing home patients, some of whom who were given vitamin E supplements, and were shown to be 20 percent less likely to catch colds. The Reuters story concludes with Dr. Dickinson quoted, "It is recognized that nutrition has a major impact on disease resistance, and [the researcher’s] group has previously shown that vitamin E supplementation improves measures of immune response. The current study shows an impact on actual disease incidence." Many media outlets, including the Washington Post and MSNBC News, picked up the Reuters story. JAMA's embargoed press release caused us to be concerned that the positive news might get lost, or that the study might be reported in a negative way. To counter these possibilities, CRN issued an embargoed press release to key media contacts focusing on the good news on vitamin E found in the study. CRN member companies also played an active role in highlighting the positive findings to the media.
Read CRN’s press release.

"In comparison with the general population, older Americans are twice as likely to visit the doctor and 3 times more likely to be hospitalized; their average hospital stays are twice as long, and they consume twice the number of prescription drugs." Infection is one of the most common causes of sickness in the elderly, and older people are two to ten times more likely to die of infections than younger adults. A review of clinical trials on nutritional interventions supports "use of a daily multivitamin or trace-mineral supplement that includes zinc (elemental zinc, >20 mg/day) and selenium (100 mcg/day), with additional vitamin E to achieve a daily dosage of 200 mg/day." Health care providers should be aware of common drug/nutrient interactions, since the elderly are heavy users of medications.

—High KP. Nutritional strategies to boost immunity and prevent infection in elderly individuals.

Read more in the publication, Clinical Infectious Diseases, online.


Elderly persons residing in nursing homes may be particularly at risk of unrecognized inadequacies of vitamins and minerals because their health may already be compromised by multiple disorders and because there may be difficulties in feeding. While other nutritional problems observed in nursing homes may be difficult to remedy, micronutrient deficiencies can be avoided through inexpensive, safe supplementation. Dr. Connie Bales of the Duke University Medical Center emphasizes that "the benefits could be remarkable, with the potential for improvements in a number of vital functions, including but not limited to cognitive ability and immunocompetence."

—Bales CW. Micronutrient deficiencies in nursing homes: should clinical intervention await a research consensus? Commentary in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition


An extensive survey of the dietary habits of 1740 healthy adults (living in Arizona and over the age of 50) showed that more than 60 percent had deficient dietary intakes of vitamin D, vitamin E, folate and calcium. Their intakes were not only below the recommended levels, but below the average requirement. In terms of dietary patterns, no more than 10 percent of the population met the Food Pyramid recommendations for grain or dairy products, and only about 50 percent met the daily recommendations for fruits and vegetables. Read the abstract on the Journal of the American College of Nutrition website.


From the CRN publication, The Benefits of Nutritional Supplements, compiled by Annette Dickinson, Ph.D. Find out more about this publication


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