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Vitamin pills don’t prevent infections in elderly

Daily supplements of multivitamins and minerals do not prevent respiratory, stomach, skin and other types of infections in the elderly, researchers said.
/ Source: Reuters

Daily supplements of multivitamins and minerals do not prevent respiratory, stomach, skin and other types of infections in the elderly, researchers said on Friday.

An estimated 10 percent of people in their 70s or older in Britain and other countries are thought to have a vitamin or mineral deficiency that may lead to poor immunity which can increase their risk of infection.

“We found that in a group of older people who are mostly living at home and in their 70s, a typical vitamin and mineral supplement didn’t have an effect on the number of days of infection they had over the course of a year,” said Alison Avenell, of the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

In research reported in the British Medical Journal, Avenell and her team studied 900 people over 65 years old. Half were given a multivitamin and mineral supplement and the remainder took a placebo, or dummy pill, daily.

They also looked at the number of hospital admissions and antibiotic prescriptions for both groups.

After comparing the number of infections over a year and their quality of life, the researchers found no difference between the two groups.

Although the supplements did not seem to prevent infections in people in the study, the scientists said the findings did not mean that multivitamin and mineral supplements would not have an effect on other medical problems.

“There are specific medical reasons why people might need to take supplements,” said Avenell.