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Using Nutrition to Boost Your Immune System

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It comes as a surprise to most people that if you're over 50, even if you're eating right and exercising, you're probably not getting enough of the nutrients needed to maintain a strong immune system. 

That's because as you age, your body loses its ability to absorb and metabolize essential vitamins and minerals from food sources, even if you're eating a reasonable quantity and variety of foods. As a result, nutritional deficiencies are alarmingly common among older adults in all industrialized countries-even though there's no shortage of food. 

What's the result? Older Americans are significantly more prone to illness-everything from colds and flu to more serious and sometimes lethal infections-and generally feeling below par than younger adults. 

Dr. Ranjit Chandra, Director of the World Health Organization Centre for Nutritional Immunology and an internationally recognized expert in nutrition and immunity, has spent over 30 years studying the effect of nutrition on the aging immune system. He has found conclusive evidence that a relationship exists between nutritional deficiencies and impaired immunity among aging adults. 

Dr. Chandra's investigation of the links between nutrition and immune system strength began in India during the 1960s, where, as a young pediatrician, he treated children who suffered from severe malnutrition. 

He made two observations that formed the basis of his future research. The first was that malnutrition resulted in an immune system that was severely depressed, leaving children vulnerable to infection and disease; and the second was that with proper nutrition, the immune systems of even the most seriously ill children usually bounced back in a matter of weeks.  

When Dr. Chandra moved to Canada during the 1970s, he found that malnutrition was most prevalent, not among children, but among the aging population, even if their diet appeared to be sufficient and well-balanced. In fact, his work with older patients indicated that as many as one in three adults over 50-in both Canada and the United States-have nutrient deficiencies that can result in impaired immune function.   

The implications of this widespread nutritional deficiency are staggering. A disturbing number of potentially serious medical situations that afflict older Americans are a direct result of complications that arise from some weakness in the immune system - complications that lead to colds, influenza, pneumonia, and a host of other infectious diseases. 

Armed with these observations, Dr. Chandra concluded that the frequency and severity of infectious diseases among aging adults could be significantly reduced by strengthening the immune system through healthy diets complemented by a nutritional supplement with optimal quantities of essential vitamins and minerals.  

What difference can a multivitamin really make? In studies conducted in Canada, researchers found that men and women over 65 who were given a carefully formulated multivitamin and mineral supplement reported only half as many sick days as a group given a placebo. 

They also found Dr. Chandra's multinutrient supplement increased the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine by boosting the body's antibody response. Researchers later studied the effects of the same formulation on men and women 50-64, with similar results, and these results have been replicated by other researchers. 

This multivitamin previously only available to study participants, is now available worldwide, including a recent introduction in the U.S. under the tradename Javaan 50 (www.javaan50.com)

Even if you don't need a doctor, hospital, or prescription medication, just think of your last bad cold or flu. Did you have to stay home from work? Miss an event you were looking forward to? Or did you just drag yourself around, feeling depressed and miserable? Either way, you lost precious time out of your life and put an unwanted strain on your body.   

If you take colds and flu for granted as an unavoidable part of life, it's time to think again. As researchers like Dr. Chandra are proving, eating a balanced diet along with the right daily multinutrient is a simple way of keeping your immune system at its peak. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  

Lex Thomas is a freelance writer who focuses on healthcare issues for older Americans. For more information please contact . 

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