Dietary supplement shows promise for improving immune function in the elderly

04/04/04

A recent clinical study has demonstrated that 7-oxo Dehydroepiandrosterone taken orally twice daily by healthy adults over a period of one month augments several key T-cell mediated immune function parameters compared to placebo administration.

Dr. John L. Zenk of the Minnesota Applied Research Center in Chanhassen, Minnesota, and Dr. Michael A. Kuskowski of the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Veterans Administration Medical Center in Minneapolis, presented their findings as part of the scientific sessions of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Experimental Biology 2004.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a natural pro-hormone in the body that declines with age, has been postulated to account for some of the decline of the immune system that is seen in the elderly. 3-acetyl-7-oxo-dehydroepiandrosterone (7-oxo DHEA), a more potent and natural DHEA derivative in the body that also declines with age, has been previously shown to enhance T-cell function in human lymphocytes. 7-oxo DHEA, commonly known as 7-KetoTM, is commercially available and can be purchased and used as a dietary supplement in the United States.

Americans are growing older at an alarming rate. Life expectancy at birth is now more than 50 percent greater than it was a century ago. One half of all humans who have ever lived to age 65 are alive today and one out of every 26 Baby Boomers will live to be 100 years old. As the percentage of elderly Americans increases the impact on future health care costs also increases.

Aging is associated with a decline in a large number of bodily functions, the most important of which is immune function. Numerous changes occur in the immune system with advancing age, probably contributing to decreased immune responsiveness in the elderly. These changes are often associated with important manifestations such as increased susceptibility to infection and cancer.

Immune system response is a very complex series of reactions made up of three primary components, cellular or T-cell immunity, humoral or B-cell immunity and innate immunity. Although all of these segments of the immune system are affected by the aging process, investigators have most consistently identified abnormalities in the cellular or T-cell mediated immune function in the elderly. The decline in T-cell immune function is generally associated with an increased susceptibility to infections. For example, individuals with age-related declines in cellular immunity have an impaired response to influenza vaccine, making them more susceptible to getting the "flu" even though they have had their flu shot.

Restoration of immune function is keenly needed for the improvement of quality of life in the elderly as this segment of the population is rapidly growing. The use of dietary manipulation and supplementation has been identified as a method of immune system renewal and dietary supplements such as 7-oxo DHEA may play an important future role as immune system modulators.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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