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Multivitamin, Mineral Supplement Linked To Less-Serve Shorter-Lasting Illness

Older adults who took a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement with zinc and high amounts of vitamin C in a 12-week study experienced sickness for shorter periods and with less severe symptoms than counterparts in a control group receiving a placebo, according to new research by Oregon State University researchers published in the journal Nutrients.

The research involved 42 healthy people ages 55 to 75 years old and was designed to measure the supplement's effects on certain immune system indicators. It also looked at bloodstream levels of zinc and vitamins C and D while taking the supplement.

The multivitamin supplement used in the study focused on vitamins and minerals typically thought to help immunity. It contained 700 micrograms of vitamin A; 400 international units of vitamin D; 45 milligrams of vitamin E; 6.6 milligrams of vitamin B6; 400 micrograms of folate; 9.6 micrograms of vitamin B12; 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C; 5 milligrams of iron; 0.9 milligrams of copper; 10 milligrams of zinc; and 110 micrograms of selenium.

The immune indicators, including white blood cells' ability to kill incoming pathogens, were unaltered in the group receiving the supplement. The multivitamin group showed improved vitamin C and zinc status in the blood. Additionally, illness symptoms reported by this group were less severe and went away faster than those experienced by the placebo group.

The same percentage of participants in each group reported symptoms, but days of sickness in the supplement group averaged fewer than three compared to more than six for the placebo group, according to the study.

"The observed illness differences were striking," said Adrian Gombart, PhD, corresponding author, professor of biochemistry and biophysics and a principal investigator at the Linus Pauling Institute, in a statement. "While the study was limited to self-reported illness data and we did not design the study to answer this question, the observed differences suggest that additional larger studies designed for these outcomes are warranted and, frankly, overdue."

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