The effect of zinc and vitamin a supplementation on immune response in an older population

Cristina Fortes, Francesco Forastiere, Nerina Agabiti, Valeria Fano, Roberta Pacifici, Fabio Virgili, Giovanna Piras, Luisa Guidi, Carlo Bartoloni, Augusto Tricerri, Piergiorgio Zuccaro, Shah Ebrahim, Carlo A. Perucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To determine if either supplemental vitamin A, zinc, or both increases cell-mediated immune response in an older population. DESIGN: A double-blind, randomized, controlled trial of supplementation with vitamin A and zinc. SETTING: Casa Di Riposo Roma III, a public home for older people in Rome, Italy. SUBJECTS: The health and nutritional status of 178 residents were evaluated. One hundred thirty-six residents agreed to participate in the trial and were randomized into four treatment groups, and 118 of these residents completed the trial. INTERVENTION: The four treatments consisted of: (1) Vitamin A (800 μg retinol palmitate); (2) Zinc (25 mg as zinc sulfate); (3) Vitamin A and Zinc (800 μg retinol palmitate and 25 mg as zinc sulfate); (4) Placebo capsules containing starch. MAIN OUTCOME MEASUREMENTS: Immune tests counts of leucocytes, lymphocytes, T-cell subsets, and lymphocyte proliferative response to mitogens - were measured before and after supplementation. RESULTS: Zinc increased the number of CD4+DR+ T-cells (P = .016) and cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (P = .005). Subjects treated with vitamin A experienced a reduction in the number of CD3+ T-cells (P = .012) and CD4+ T-cells (P = .012). CONCLUSIONS: These data indicate that zinc supplementation improved cell-mediated immune response, whereas vitamin A had a deleterious effect in this older population. Further research is needed to clarify the clinical significance of these findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-26
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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