At least 10% of older people have a vitamin or mineral deficiency, which can lead to poor immunity and increased risk of infection. At least a quarter of older people in the UK take nutritional supplements, but it is unclear whether they have any influence on infections.
Researchers at Aberdeen University identified 910 men and women aged 65 or over who did not take vitamins or minerals. Participants were randomised to a daily multivitamin and multimineral supplement or a dummy (placebo) tablet for one year.
During this time, participants were asked to record contacts with primary care for infection, number of days with infection and quality of life. Numbers of antibiotic prescriptions and hospital admissions were also taken into account.
Supplementation did not seem to affect contacts with primary care, days with infection or overall quality of life. These results are consistent with several other studies on this issue.
Regular use of commonly available multivitamin and multimineral supplements is unlikely to reduce the number of self-reported infections or associated use of health services for people living at home, say the authors. It remains to be seen whether those at higher risk of infections, such as older people living in care, would benefit from supplementation.