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Vitamin E May Boost Immune System as We Age

Vitamin E may help keep your immune system strong as you age according to a study published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

For the study, researchers from Tufts University divided young and old mice into two groups. One group in each age group was given a normal diet and the other group received a diet supplemented with a form of vitamin E called tocotrienols.

Vitamin E comes in two main forms, tocopherels and tocotrienols. Tocopherols are the main form of vitamin E found in diet and in supplements. Tocotrienols have traditionally been viewed as a minor form of vitamin E because they are found in only very small levels in food and have not been well researched.

In recent years, more research has focused on tocotrienols, and scientists have discovered that they may be more potent than tocopherols. Some of the benefits that have been linked to tocotrienols include protection against brain cell damage, protection against cancer, reduction of cholesterol and protection of skin.

At the start of the study the older mice had less ability to reproduce immune cells compared to the younger mice.

After 6 weeks the researchers found a significant increase in the ability to reproduce immune cells in the older mice that received vitamin E supplementation compared to the older mice given a normal diet.

There was no difference seen in the two groups of young mice.

These are important findings because the activity of immune cells naturally declines with age, resulting in a weaker immune system.

Vitamin E is high in antioxidants which is likely why previous studies have also found additional benefits of the vitamin including reducing the risk of Alzheimer's and helping patients recover more quickly following a stroke.

Vitamin E can be found in a number of foods, but only in small quantities. For this reason, many people do not get enough vitamin E daily and could benefit from a supplement. The best supplements have vitamin E in the natural form (the synthetic version is about half as effective) and liquid supplements are usually best.

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