Author(s): Pae M, Meydani SN, Wu D
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Abstract Aging is associated with declined immune function, particularly T cell-mediated activity, which contributes to increased morbidity and mortality from infectious disease and cancer in the elderly. Studies have shown that nutritional intervention may be a promising approach to reversing impaired immune function and diminished resistance to infection with aging. However, controversy exists concerning every nutritional regimen tested to date. In this article, we will review the progress of research in this field with a focus on nutrition factor information that is relatively abundant in the literature. While vitamin E deficiency is rare, intake above recommended levels can enhance T cell function in aged animals and humans. This effect is believed to contribute toward increased resistance to influenza infection in animals and reduced incidence of upper respiratory infection in the elderly. Zinc deficiency, common in the elderly, is linked to impaired immune function and increased risk for acquiring infection, which can be rectified by zinc supplementation. However, higher than recommended upper limits of zinc may adversely affect immune function. Probiotics are increasingly being recognized as an effective, immune-modulating nutritional factor. However, to be effective, they require an adequate supplementation period; additionally, their effects are strain-specific and among certain strains, a synergistic effect is observed. Increased intake of fish or n-3 PUFA may be beneficial to inflammatory and autoimmune disorders as well as to several age-related diseases. Conversely, the immunosuppressive effect of fish oils on T cell-mediated function has raised concerns regarding their impact on resistance to infection. Caloric restriction (CR) is shown to delay immunosenescence in animals, but this effect needs to be verified in humans. Timing for CR initiation may be important to determine whether CR is effective or even beneficial at all. Recent studies have suggested that CR, which is effective at improving the immune response of unchallenged animals, might compromise the host's defense against pathogenic infection and result in higher morbidity and mortality. The studies published thus far describe a critical role for nutrition in maintaining the immune response of the aged, but they also indicate the need for a more in-depth, wholestic approach to determining the optimal nutritional strategies that would maintain a healthy immune system in the elderly and promote their resistance to infection and other immune-related diseases.
This article was published in Aging Dis
and referenced in Journal of Gerontology & Geriatric Research