It’s not sufficient to prolong life if those additional years will be squandered on illness; we should also find a way to maintain health. One way to preserve health – and to add life to our years – is to keep a strong, vigorous immune system. In this respect, bolstering the antioxidant system may really make a difference in our ability to ward off diseases that not only shorten life, but also interrupt our quality of life during those subsequent years.
The principal task of the immune system is to protect our bodies from disease. Although we call it a system, the immune system isn’t associated with one specific organ. In fact, it’s a set of cells that seek out and destroy bacteria, viruses, viruses and cancer cells, and some other foreign invader that it deems to be harmful. As we get older, the immune system loses some of its punch, and consequently, we become more vulnerable to diseases which we can easily have shaken off in our childhood.
This is why elderly people are strongly advised to get flu shots annually, and many younger people aren’t. Whereas a younger person could conquer the flu virus in a week or two, an older person might not be as blessed. He is more inclined to remain ill for a longer time and to have a greater chance of developing complications like pneumonia. Another sort of immune cell, B-cells, produce proteins called antibodies that attach on a foreign substance when it’s introduced into the body.
Let’s understand it
Throughout our lives, our bodies create thousands of different antibodies, each tailored to search out and destroy a specific enemy. Antibodies can hold a grudge for a long, long time. After defeating a foe, they stay in our bodies to vanquish viruses or bacteria should they dare to attack again. For instance, most people will only get chicken pox once, since if the chicken pox virus attempts to strike another time, an army of antibodies will recognize it and attack it before it can take hold.
As we age, there’s a measurable drop in immune function, especially by our seventh and eighth years. Although we might produce as many T-cells and B-cells as we did earlier, they don’t work as well. In actuality, by the time we’re , no more than half our T-cells are capable of responding to an antigen or foreign body. Our B-cells also start to lose their memory and are no longer as competitive in pouncing on our enemies. In older animals and human cells, vitamin E can boost immune function, but until recently, there have never been any convincing studies showing a positive immune response in elderly people because of taking vitamin E.
I’m delighted to report that researchers in Jean Mayer, USDA Human Nutrition Center at Tufts University, under the direction of Simin Nibkin Meydani, have shown that vitamin E not only works in test tubes and on lab animals but may stimulate immune function in elderly people also. In their analysis, eighty-eight individuals ages sixty-five and were given either 60, 200, or 800 I.U. E daily for four weeks. A substantial increase in T- and B-cell action in people who took vitamin E, a clear sign that they were able to keep disease at bay compared to those who took a placebo. Those folks who took vitamin E showed a more vigorous immune response to delayed hypersensitivity peau reaction, hepatitis B, and the tetanus vaccine.