Dairy proteins and the response to pneumovax in senior citizens: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study

Samara L. Freeman, Laura Fisher, J. Bruce German, Patrick S. Leung, Harry Prince, Carlo Selmi, Stanley M. Naguwa, M. Eric Gershwin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


With the progressive aging of the world's population, immunosenescence is rapidly becoming a clinical concern as it accounts for a higher incidence of severe infections and poor response to vaccines. To identify nutritional approaches that may counteract immunosenescence is of obvious importance in clinical practice. Dairy products in general and whey proteins in particular share the capacity to stimulate the immune system within the digestive tract while the antibody response to Streptococcus pneumoniae vaccine is a good marker of the immune function. We performed a controlled, randomized, double-blind pilot study to determine if an eight-week supplementation with whey protein (or soy protein used as control) could enhance the serum response to pneumococcal vaccine in healthy senior citizens. Out of 127 volunteers, 17 subjects were eligible and completed the study receiving the vaccine after four weeks of supplementation. Antibody levels were measured at baseline and the end of the study against 14 pneumococcal types and a detailed nutritional questionnaire was administered to all subjects. Subjects receiving whey protein manifested a serum response higher compared to the control soy supplementation against 12/14 bacterial types. In particular, whey led to a higher frequency of response to all four more virulent types (4, 9, 14, and 23). Calorie and protein intake data suggest a better nutritional status in the whey group. Whey protein supplementation is a promising supplement to stimulate the immune response to vaccine in senior citizens and possibly to counteract immunosenescence while larger studies are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)00778923
ISSN (Electronic)17496632


  • Dietary supplements
  • Immunosenescence
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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