Vitamin E and immunity

Vitam Horm. 2000:59:305-36. doi: 10.1016/s0083-6729(00)59011-6.


Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant and has an ability to modulate host immune functions. This chapter consists of five parts: (1) vitamin E deficiency and immunity, (2) vitamin E supplementation and immunity, (3) vitamin E and the decreased cellular immunity with aging, (4) vitamin E and T-cell differentiation in the thymus, and (5) vitamin E and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). In vitamin E deficiency most of the immune parameters show a downward trend, which is associated with increased infectious diseases and the incidence of tumors. In contrast, vitamin E supplementation has various beneficial effects on the host immune system. The decreased cellular immunity with aging or during the development of AIDS is markedly improved by the intake of a high vitamin E diet. In addition, vitamin E plays an important role in the differentiation of immature T cells in thymus. Vitamin E deficiency induces the decreased differentiation of immature T cells, which results in the early decrease of cellular immunity with aging in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Conversely, vitamin E supplementation induces a higher differentiation of immature T cells via increased positive selection by thymic epithelial cells, which results in the improvement of decreased cellular immunity in the aged. Furthermore, vitamin E supplementation induces the early recovery of thymic atrophy following X-ray irradiation. Taken together, these results suggest that vitamin E is an important nutrient for maintaining the immune system, especially in the aged.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / diet therapy
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Thymus Gland / immunology
  • Thymus Gland / physiology
  • Vitamin E / immunology*
  • Vitamin E / physiology
  • Vitamin E Deficiency / immunology*


  • Vitamin E