Nutrient Intake and Immune Function of Elderly Subjects

Laura Wardwell, Karen Chapman-Novakofski, Susan Herrel, Jeffrey Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Food intake, aging, and immune function share complex influences. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine relationships between nutrient intakes from food and dietary supplements and a biomarker of immune function. Design: Data were collected from participants in a cross-sectional study as well as baseline data from a longitudinal study (n=89). Subjects completed 24-hour food recalls, including supplement intake. Polyclonal mitogen phytohemmagluttin (PHA) was the immune function stimulator used. Height and weight were used to calculate body mass index. Statistical analyses performed: Descriptive, bivariate correlation, Spearman's ρ for nonparametric data, t tests, and stepwise regression with nutrient intakes as independent variables and T-cell proliferation as dependent variables. Results: Significant positive correlations (P≤0.05) were found between PHA-induced proliferation and intake of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosahexaenoic acid (EPA), sodium, and selenium, although intakes of DHA plus EPA were inadequate when compared to recommended intakes. A significant negative correlation with total vitamin A, with many vitamin A levels being above the upper limit of safety. Regression analyses found these nutrients to be variables significant in explaining the variance in PHA (P=0.005). Conclusions: Selenium, sodium, DHA, EPA, and vitamin A intake from diet and supplements were associated with PHA-induced proliferative responses. Clients may be counseled to have adequate selenium, EPA, DHA intake, and vitamin A, but avoid excess vitamin A.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2005-2012
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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