Vitamin Pills Prevent Infection

January 24, 2005

The increased predisposition to infections in diabetics can be reduced with a daily multivitamin-mineral pill.

Skeptics have doubted that ordinary vitamin pills can strengthen the immune defence. In 1992, the Canadian nutritionist R.K. Chandra did establish that a daily vitamin pill reduced the number of infections in a small group of healthy elderly people by 50%. However, critics questionned his independence and the succeeding year, French scientists could not find any similar effect in an – albeit short-term – study.

The situation is now completely different. An American study has shown that an ordinary vitamin pill almost halves the incidence of infections. The study that lasted nearly a year included 130 trial subjects who were predominantly middle-aged, overweight women; of these women, approximately 1/3 had type II diabetes – also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes or adult-onset diabetes. Their lifestyle, however, was not necessarily unhealthy; more than every other woman exercised moderately or intensely.

During the study, half the trial subjects were given placebo (a non-effective tablet) and the other half were given a daily vitamin-mineral tablet. In the placebo group, 73% suffered infection while this was the case for only 43% in the vitamin group.

The diabetics were apparently the ones who benefited most from the vitamin pill as most of the difference between the two groups could be ascribed to them. Indeed, it is well-known that diabetics are more susceptible to infections than other people; 93% of the diabetics in the placebo group suffered infection while this was the case for only 17% of the diabetics in the vitamin group.

The obvious explanation could
be that the diabetics were vitamin-deficient; this would weaken their immune defence, but when given a vitamin pill, their health would be restored. However, the figures do not confirm this theory. It was estimated that approximately 1/3 of all the trial subjects – i.e. both diabetics and non-diabetics – were deficient in the vitamins A, -E, and -C. Therefore, the conclusion must be that not all diabetics had eaten unhealthily.

There is also the question of diabetics perhaps having a particularly large need for vitamins in order to maintain a healthy immune defence. During the trial, they were given a substantial supplement. The vitamin pill used in the trial contains fairly large amounts of the vitamins A, -B, -C, and -D, and it also contains folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin K, chromium, and iodine which are not always present in standard vitamin pills.

Six months ago, the French 7-year SU.VI.MAX study showed that small amounts of antioxidants dramatically reduce mortality and the incidence of cancer in men. The men were given vitamin C and -E plus beta-carotene and selenium in the same dosage as in the American study; however, the Americans were given all the other vitamins and minerals as well.

Around the same time, a study in Tanzania showed that multivitamins significally strengthen the immune

There is reason to believe that, on a long view, a multivitamin pill – preferably a strong one of the kind – will be of benefit to most people. On a short view it is quite certainly a significant advantage to diabetics, men, and HIV positive people in particular.

By: Vitality Council

1) Chandra RK. Effect of vitamin and trace-element supplementation on immune responses and infection in elderly subjects. Lancet 1992;340:1124-7.
2) Chavance M et al. Does multivitamin supplementation prevent infections in healthy elderly subjects ? A controlled trial. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1993;63:11-16.
3) Barringer TA et al. Effect of a multivitamin and mineral supplement on infection and quality of life. Ann Int Med 2003;138:365-71.
4) Hercberg S et al. The SU.VI.Max study. Arch Int Med 2004;164:2335- 2342.