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Vitamin D supplements boost immunity in the elderly

Immune responses and inflammation improve in older adults who take supplements, study shows.

Vitamin Tablets
Taking vitamin D supplements increased immune response to the virus and lowered inflammation in the elderly.

Elderly individuals who are vitamin D deficient can significantly improve their immunity to the virus that causes shingles by taking supplements, a study has shown.

Lack of vitamin D contributes to the loss of immunity observed with age, the results suggest.

Supplementation of vitamin D could improve the general health of the elderly by boosting immunity to specific diseases and potentially increasing the efficacy of vaccines, the data suggests.

Findings from the study may explain in part why vitamin D insufficiency is associated with severe cases of Covid-19.

Available vitamin

In the elderly, immune responses to varicella-zoster virus which causes shingles, are reduced, inflammation is increased, and those with higher levels of inflammation had lower levels of vitamin D, the study showed.

This led scientists to investigate whether taking vitamin D supplements could have an effect on susceptibility to the virus.

Vitamin D supplementation significantly increased immune response to the virus and lowered inflammation, an analysis of immune responses in the skin of elderly volunteers has shown.

What is fascinating about this study is that vitamin D, which is a cheap, safe and readily available vitamin, has the capability to improve immunity in older adults.

Dr Emma ChambersCentre for Immunobiology at the Blizard Institute, Queen Mary University of London

The response of the immune system decreases as we age, which results in the elderly being more susceptible to viral infections such as Covid-19, influenza and shingles. In this study we found that vitamin D supplements can boost immunity.

Professor Neil MabbottRoslin Institute

The study was a collaboration between the Centre for Immunobiology at the Blizard Institute, the Roslin Institute, University College London and Royal Free Hospital. It was funded by the Medical Research Council. The findings are published in the journal Immunotherapy Advances.

** The Roslin Institute receives strategic investment funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and it is part of the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. **

Related links

Scientific publication

Q&A with Dr Emma Chambers

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