Vitamin Use May Weaken Flu Shot’s Efficacy in Elderly – (08-13-01)

Vitamin Use May Weaken Flu Shot’s Efficacy in Elderly

It’s amazing that this one hasn’t been plastered all over the news. Once again, we need to take some things with a grain of salt. First, I am not a fan of the flu shot and would rather see a patient do other things to stimulate overall immune health against a wide variety of diseases, not just a shot in the dark at only a few.

This study gave certain patients a limited nutrient multivitamin prior to flu vaccination and checked them one month later. This abstract does not identify how the response was checked. The author suggests that these results may be from a lack of trace minerals such as zinc in the vitamin. Here’s my spin (and this is pure speculation..). The presence of additional factors (in this case the multi) helped to balance the immune response. Remember that the Th2 response is strengthened by vaccines and Th1 is strengthened by exposure to antigens. It is possible that the presence of certain nutrients at vaccination time averted a Th2 dominant state (which zinc has been shown to do), resulting in an overall more healthy patient.

Infect Dis Clin Pract 2001:10:81-85 Older individuals who take multivitamins may not gain full benefit from influenza vaccination, a team of military doctors has found. “Physicians and patients should be cautious with multivitamin use,” says principal investigator Dr. Peter T. Ender, of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Medical Center near Dayton, Ohio. “Depending on the combination, they may have harmful rather than beneficial effects.” Among 79 adults age 65 and older, those who took a daily multivitamin for 100 days before flu vaccination showed a poorer immune response 1 month after vaccination compared with those who took placebo. The findings are published in Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice. One possible reason for the poor response in multivitamin users, Dr. Ender said, is that the supplement used in this study included vitamins A, B, C, D, E, as well as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, folate and pantothenic acid, but no trace elements such as zinc. Other recent studies have suggested that multivitamins containing those trace elements do have beneficial effects on the body’s immune response. Dr. Ender concluded, “I would caution people [from] thinking that ‘A vitamin can do no harm, so why not take them?’ ”

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.