Multivitamin and mineral supplements do not appear to prevent infections in older people living at home, report researchers in Scotland today, raising questions for a significant segment of the supplement-taking population.
Studies in the past have shown that when taking vitamin E supplements, elderly people in nursing homes were 20 per cent less likely to get a cold and also had fewer colds over the study period than a placebo group. Although some trials have shown that other supplements, especially of trace elements, have reduced infections in older people in care.
Latest research shows that for those living at home, where risk of infection is lower than in residential care, multivitamin supplements may not offer the same benefit. For the study researchers recruited 910 men and women aged 65 or over who did not take vitamins or minerals and randomised them to receive either a daily multivitamin and multimineral supplement or a placebo for one year. While on the study participants were asked to record contacts with primary care for infection, number of days with infection and quality of life. Numbers of antibiotic prescriptions and hospital admissions were also taken into account.
Results showed that at least 10 per cent of older people are thought to have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, which can lead to poor immunity and increased risk of infection. However it was seen that taking multivitamin and mineral supplement did not affect incidence of infection or overall quality of life of subjects.
In conclusion researchers say regular use of commonly available multivitamin and multimineral supplements are unlikely to reduce the number of self-reported infections or associated use of health services for people living at home. At the same time researchers say they cannot exclude the possibility that the intakes provided in the supplement were inadequate to affect the immune system. Thus researchers say that it remains to be seen whether older people living in care would benefit from supplementation.