Dietary vitamin E and T cell-mediated function in the elderly: effectiveness and mechanism of action

Int J Dev Neurosci. 2000 Jul-Aug;18(4-5):401-10. doi: 10.1016/s0736-5748(00)00016-2.


One of the most dramatic and consequence-bearing age-related phenomena is the decline of the immune function with old age. Age-related T cell-mediated immunity dysfunction has been implicated in the etiology of many of the chronic degenerative diseases of the elderly, including arthritis, cancer, autoimmune diseases and increased susceptibility to infectious diseases. T cells from aged individuals are impaired in their response to mitogens and in their cytokine production. In recent years, several studies have emphasized the importance of intracellular anti-oxidant levels for preserving the immune function. Recent progress in understanding the mechanisms of action of anti-oxidants on cellular metabolism, have shown that anti-oxidants may modulate signal transduction and gene expression in immune cells. Vitamin E is widely recognized as a major lipid-soluble chain-breaking anti-oxidant in the biological membrane, where it scavenges free radicals, inhibiting the initiation and chain propagation of lipid peroxidation and protecting cellular structures against oxidative stress damage. Experimental studies have provided evidences for a role of vitamin E in protecting the immune system of elderly subjects. This article reviews the studies concerning the effect of both vitamin E deficiency and supplementation on T cell-mediated immune function in aging. Following a chronological pathway, the present article will also discuss the knowledge regarding the underlying mechanism of action of vitamin E.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / immunology*
  • Diet
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamin E