Health Feature Articles
Protect against colds and flu with vitamin E
Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
Cold and flu season is in full swing. There are many ways to protect against both illnesses, including getting plenty of vitamin E.
The October 2016 issue of Tufts University’s Health and Nutrition Letter recommends numerous strategies for fending off winter’s colds and flus. Start with getting a flu shot. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect and, with months left in the flu season, it can still be useful. (Influenza has been reported even as late as May.) Eating at least five servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables daily can boost the immune system to help stave off disease. Being physically active at least 20 minutes per day—by walking, specifically—has been shown to improve the immune system, as well. Losing weight can also be a factor. Indeed, the health and nutrition report says: “Studies have shown that when people with excess weight reduce their calorie intake for six months and lose belly fat, their immune response is strengthened.” Drinking plenty of fluids and washing hands often and carefully can also greatly reduce the risk of contracting these contagious diseases.
These strategies are fairly well known. Consuming adequate amounts of vitamin E may not be as familiar a strategy. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts found “improves the human body’s response to the flu vaccine and reduces the risk of upper respiratory infections,” the Tufts University health and nutrition letter noted. Most adults need 15 milligrams (mg) per day, except breastfeeding mothers, who need 19 mg day.
Many foods contain vitamin E. For example, 1 cup of fortified cereal contains 20-40 mg of vitamin E; an ounce of sunflower seeds contains 7 mg; an ounce of dry roasted almonds contains 8 mg; 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 3 mg; one raw mango contains 2 mg; and a half cup of cooked frozen broccoli contains 2 mg. It is recommended that most people obtain vitamin E from foods, since there is a tolerable upper intake level for this nutrient.
Follow these strategies, including eating foods rich in vitamin E, to reduce the risk of getting a cold or the flu this year and in years to come.
Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter. October 2016. 10 easy steps to help prevent colds and flu. http://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/12_10/special-reports/10-Easy-Steps-to-Help-Prevent-Colds-and-Flu_2031-1.html
Last Updated 02/03/2017