Section of Infectious Diseases,
Wake Forest University School of Medicine,
Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.
Older adults are at risk for malnutrition, which may contribute to their increased risk of infection. Nutritional supplementation strategies can reduce this risk and reverse some of the immune dysfunction associated with advanced age. This review discusses nutritional interventions that have been examined in clinical trials of older adults. The data support use of a daily multivitamin or trace-mineral supplement that includes zinc (elemental zinc, >20 mg/day) and selenium (100 microg/day), with additional vitamin E, to achieve a daily dosage of 200 mg/day. Specific syndromes may also be addressed by nutritional interventions (for example, cranberry juice consumption to reduce urinary tract infections) and may reduce antibiotic use in older adults, particularly those living in long-term care facilities. Drug-nutrient interactions are common in elderly individuals, and care providers should be aware of these interactions. Future research should evaluate important clinical end points rather than merely surrogate markers of immunity.