Study Analysis Shows Vitamin E May Reduce Pneumonia Risk Among Elderly, Past Smokers

Study Analysis Shows Vitamin E May Reduce Pneumonia Risk Among Elderly, Past Smokers

Vitamin E supplements may reduce the risk of pneumonia among elderly men who smoke or who were previous smokers, a recent analysis of a past study shows.

The analysis report, “Vitamin E administration may decrease the incidence of pneumonia in elderly males,” was published in the October issue of Clinical Interventions in Aging.

Evidence from laboratory studies in mice had shown that vitamin E influences the immune system by offering protection against infections caused by viruses and bacteria. Potential vitamin E protection is especially important for human lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia.

The Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) study (NCT00342992), conducted in Finland between 1985 and 1993, examined the effect of 50 mg/day of vitamin E on male smokers 50 to 69 years old. The study showed that age modified the effect of vitamin E on common cold incidence and total mortality, and that the effect of vitamin E on pneumonia was influenced by the age at which participants began smoking.

Using ATBC study data, Harri Hemilä from the University of Helsinki in Finland examined how the vitamin E supplements effected the risk of pneumonia dependant on age, according to a recent news release,

Hemilä found that vitamin E reduced the risk of pneumonia by 35% among 7,469 males, ages 50 to 69, who began smoking after age 21. Vitamin E seemed to have no effect on pneumonia risk in males who began smoking at younger ages.

Within the group of 7,469 participants who started to smoke at later ages, vitamin E reduced by 69 percent the incidence of pneumonia in a subgroup of males who smoked 5 to 19 cigarettes per day (light smokers), and who exercised during their leisure time (2,216 men). Additionally, vitamin E may have prevented pneumonia in 12.9 percent of the men before they reached age 74. However, no effect was seen in men who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day and did not exercise.

Among the same 7,469 participants who started to smoke at a later age, one-third quit smoking for some time, and 27 developed pneumonia. Based on the findings, the risk of developing pneumonia was reduced by 72 percent in participants who took vitamin E supplementation and stopped smoking.

“Thus, even though the 72% decrease in pneumonia risk with vitamin E in ATBC participants who quit smoking may be a real effect, it should not be generalized to current elderly males in Western countries. Further research on vitamin E in nonsmoking elderly males is warranted,” Hemilä said in the news release.

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