Oct. 3, 2002 -- Flu shots aren't 100% effective, especially in the elderly. But new research shows there is a way to punch up the immune system's response to a flu vaccine -- exercising and eating right, including nutritional supplements.
As people age, immune systems don't function as well, says study leader Wendeline Wouters-Wesseling, MD, of Numico Research B.V. and Wageningen in the Netherlands, in a news release. As a result, the flu vaccination doesn't always provide enough protection.
The researchers studied 19 adults ages 65 and up. Some of the participants took a nutritional supplement, containing nutrients to provide extra calories along with vitamins, minerals, and high levels of antioxidants, for seven months. Others took a placebo.
They found that after receiving a flu shot, those who took the supplement had a much stronger immune response to the vaccine. The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.
In an accompanying study, researchers found that older adults who exercised intensely, at least three times a week, were better protected when they got their flu shots.
An less intense exercise program did not offer the same protection. Limited or low-intensity exercise did not affect immune response.
Regular, moderate-to-vigorous exercise, enough to work up a sweat, is the key to having the flu shots work more effectively, says study leader Marian Kohut, PhD, of the department of health and human performance at Iowa State University, in a news release.