To determine the impact of a trace element and vitamin supplementation on infectious morbidity, a double-blind controlled trial was performed on 81 elderly subjects in a geriatric center during a 2-year period. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups, and received daily: placebo; trace elements /zinc 20 mg; selenium 100 µg); vitamins (vitamin C 120 mg; β-carotene 6 mg; α-tocopherol 15 mg); or a combination of trace elements and vitamins at equal doses. (1) Before supplementation, low serum values in vitamin C, folate, zinc and selenium were observed in more than two thirds of the patients. (2) After 6 months of supplementation, a significant increase in vitamin and trace element serum levels was obtained in the corresponding treatment groups: a plateau was then observed for the whole study. (3) Subjects who received trace elements (zinc and selenium) alone or associated with vitamins had significantly less infectious events during the 2 years of supplementation. These results indicate that supplementation with low doses of vitamins and trace elements is able to rapidly correct corresponding deficiencies in the institutionalized elderly. Moreover, zinc and selenium reduced infectious events.

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