“Very promising.” That’s how the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the largest trade association of supplement makers, describes the impact of vitamin E on colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
In three good studies, people who took 15 IU to 74 IU of vitamin E as part of a multivitamin every day for an average of 15 months were no less likely to get a cold or the flu than similar people who took a placebo. (The Daily Value, or DV, for vitamin E is 30 IU.)
And much larger doses don’t seem to help older people living on their own. In a study of 652 people aged 60 or older, those who got 300 IU of vitamin E every day for 15 months had no fewer infections than those who received a placebo.
However, in a study of 450 Boston- area nursing home residents (average age: 85), those who were given 200 IU a day of vitamin E for one year had 20 percent fewer colds than those who were given a placebo.
While that’s only a modest benefit, “colds in older people are a more serious problem than in younger people,” notes lead author Simin Nikbin Meydani.
Sources: J. Am. Geriatr. Soc. 55: 35, 2007; BMJ 331: 324, 2005; JAMA 288: 715, 2002; JAMA 292: 828, 2004.