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December 15, 2004

Vitamin E and Respiratory Tract Infections in Elderly Persons

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(23):2834. doi:10.1001/jama.292.23.2834-a

To the Editor: Dr Meydani and colleagues1 reported the results of a vitamin E trial involving residents in long-term care facilities. In a post hoc analysis, they observed a slightly lower common cold incidence in the group that was administered 200 IU/d of vitamin E (relative risk [RR], 0.83; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.68-1.01).

We examined the effect of vitamin E (50 mg/d) on common cold incidence in the Alpha-Tocopherol Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study cohort involving 21 796 male smokers aged 50 to 69 years at baseline.2 We found no overall effect of vitamin E on common cold incidence (RR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.98-1.01). However, in an exploratory subgroup analysis, we found a statistically significant but clinically modest reduction of common cold incidence in city-dwelling participants aged 65 years or older who smoked less than 15 cigarettes/d (RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.62-0.83), with no effect among elderly participants living outside cities or smoking more than 15 cigarettes/d (RR, 0.99; 95% CI, 0.94-1.05).

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