Vitamin E and immune response in the aged: molecular mechanisms and clinical implications

Immunol Rev. 2005 Jun;205(1):269-84. doi: 10.1111/j.0105-2896.2005.00274.x.


Nutritional status has been indicated as a contributing factor to age-related dysregulation of the immune response. Vitamin E, a lipid-soluble antioxidant vitamin, is important for normal function of the immune cells. The elderly are at a greater risk for vitamin E intake that is lower than recommended levels. Vitamin E supplementation above currently recommended levels has been shown to improve immune functions in the aged including delayed-type hypersensitivity skin response and antibody production in response to vaccination, which was shown to be mediated through increased production of interleukin (IL)-2, leading to enhanced proliferation of T cells, and through reduced production of prostaglandin E(2), a T-cell suppressive factor, as a result of a decreased peroxynitrite formation. Vitamin E increased both cell-dividing and IL-producing capacities of naive T cells, but not memory T cells. The vitamin E-induced enhancement of immune functions in the aged was associated with significant improvement in resistance to influenza infection in aged mice and a reduced risk of acquiring upper respiratory infections in nursing home residents. Further studies are needed to determine the signaling mechanisms involved in the upregulation of naive T-cell function by vitamin E as well as the specific mechanisms involved in reduction of risk for upper respiratory infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Dinoprostone / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / immunology*
  • Infections / diet therapy
  • Infections / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Vitamin E / pharmacology*
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use


  • Vitamin E
  • Dinoprostone