Vitamin status, immunity and infections in an elderly population

Eur J Clin Nutr. 1989 Dec;43(12):827-35.


The relations between vitamin status and immunological parameters or number of infections have been investigated in self-sufficient healthy individuals aged 60 and over. A total of 411 subjects agreed to participate, but 202 were discarded from the main statistical analysis since they could have had their immune or nutritional status modified by a recent infection, vaccination or drug consumption. Plasma concentrations of retinol, alpha-tocopherol, ascorbic acid and vitamin B6 were determined. Three indices of cellular immunity were measured: percentages of T-cell subsets, lymphoproliferative response to phytohaemaglutinin and delayed-type hypersensitivity to 7 ubiquitous antigens. A questionnaire about past infections was presented. Two results, supported by previous experimental observations, should be underlined. Vitamin B6 status was positively related to percentages of T-cell subsets: the lowest percentages of CD5 and CD4 cells were observed in the low B6 status group (50.6 and 32.6 per cent) and the highest percentages in the high B6 status group (62.0 and 41.0 per cent), with intermediate values in the medium group (57.6 and 39.5 per cent). Vitamin E status was negatively related to the number of past infections: subjects with a high alpha-tocopherol plasma concentration had fewer infections during the last 3 years (1.0) than those with a medium (2.2) or a low (2.3) concentration. In spite of these two observations, cellular immunity did not seem to be strongly related to vitamin status in the supposedly healthy population studied.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular*
  • Infections / epidemiology*
  • Infections / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage*


  • Vitamins