Do vitamin E supplements boost immunity to colds and the flu?

Vitamin E

“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.

3 Replies to “Do vitamin E supplements boost immunity to colds and the flu?”

  1. There is a photo of a bottle of vitamin E, as dl-alpha tocopherol? tocopheryl? at the end of this article. Anyway, dl indicates a synthetic vitamin E. Are we to understand thereby that synthetic vitamin was used in the test?I have yet to see a “vitamin E test” reported in the popular media where the actual product tested was indentified, eg, “natural”, “synthetic”, “alpha tocopheryl”, “alpha tocopheol”, “gamma tocopherol”, “mixed tocopherols”, etc., etc., etc. ! It is exasperating to see test results that can probably be only meaningless, valueless, without AT LEAST identifying the actual product! It is doubly exasperating to see such reported in a publication like Nutrition Action, which is supposed to help its readers take informed intelligent action!

    1. From the Nutrition Action Healthletter: All of the vitamin E studies cited used dl-alpha tocopherol, synthetic vitamin E.

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