Multivitamin, Mineral Supplements May Help Reduce Illness Duration, Symptoms

October 23, 2020
Jennifer Barrett

Daily multivitamin and mineral supplements can boost immunity in older adults and may lessen time and severity of illnesses.

Taking daily multivitamin and mineral (MVM) supplements containing zinc and high levels of vitamin C may boost the immune system and lessen time and severity of sickness in older adults, according to a new study.

As individuals age, vitamin and mineral deficiencies become more prevalent and are more likely to contribute to age-related immune deficiencies. Older adults often benefit from MVM supplements that are thought to boost immunity.

Investigators from Oregon State University (OSU) examined the effects of such supplements on certain immune system indicators and observed illness differences. The findings were published in Nutrients. 

The study included 42 healthy individuals aged 55 to 75 years old; participants were provided either an MVM supplement or an identical, inactive placebo control to take daily for 12 weeks. Prior to and after treatment, the investigators measured the participants’ blood mineral and vitamin status, immune function, immune status, and self-reported health status.

The MVM supplement used in the study contained 700 micrograms of vitamin A, 400 international units of vitamin D, 45 milligrams of vitamin E, 6.6 milligrams of vitamin B6, 400 micrograms of folate, 9.6 micrograms of vitamin B12, 1000 milligrams of vitamin C, 5 milligrams of iron, 0.9 milligrams of copper, 10 milligrams of zinc, and 110 micrograms of selenium.

Overall, the MVM group demonstrated improved vitamin C and zinc status in the blood, and illness symptoms reported in this group were less severe and shorter than those experienced by the placebo group. The same percentage of participants in each group reported symptoms, but days of sickness in the supplement group averaged fewer than 3 compared with more than 6 for the placebo group, according to the findings.

“Supplementation was associated with significantly increased circulating levels of zinc and vitamin C, and with illness symptoms that were less severe and shorter lasting,” Adrian Gombart, professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the OSU College of Science and principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute, said in a statement. “This supports finding that stretch back decades, even to the days of Linus Paulings’ work with vitamin C. Our results suggest more and better designed research studies are needed to explore the positive role multivitamin and mineral supplementation might play in bolstering the immune system of older adults.”

Gombart noted that, although the study was limited to self-reported data, the observed illness differences that were seen between the groups suggest that additional larger studies are warranted.

According to the investigators, further development of functional assays and larger study populations should improve detection of specific changes in immune function after supplementation in health older adults.

Bayer Consumer Care funded the study through an Institution Initiated Research grant and provided the supplements (Redoxon VI) and placebos.

References:

  1. Gombart A, Fantacone ML, Lowry MB, et al. The effect of a multivitamin and mineral supplement on immune function in healthy older adults: a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Nutrients. 2020. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12082447
  2. Multivitamin, mineral supplement linked to less-severe, shorter-lasting illness symptoms. News release. Oregon State University; August 18, 2020. Accessed October 22, 2020. https://today.oregonstate.edu/news/multivitamin-mineral-supplement-linked-less-severe-shorter-lasting-illness-symptoms

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