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The potential role of nutritional factors in the induction of immunologic abnormalities in HIV-positive homosexual men.

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Institute of Environmental Medicine, New York University Medical Center, New York City 10010.


The literature is briefly summarized as to how several nutrients affect immune function, susceptibility to infection, and cancer susceptibility or progression. Nutritional deficiencies can impair immunity and so influence susceptibility to infectious agents, including ones that are common and relatively virulent in acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients. A variety of nutrients affect several of the immune functions that are defective in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals. For example, beta-carotene increased the number of CD4+ cells; vitamin E decreased the number of CD8+ cells and increased the CD4+/CD8+ ratio; vitamin D decreased the CD4+/CD8+ ratio; and iron increased the number of peripheral lymphocytes in humans receiving supplementation. Furthermore, nutritional deficiencies can influence gastrointestinal function, while infectious diseases can influence nutrient requirements by altering the efficiency of absorption and the rate of tissue metabolism. Malnutrition, depressed serum zinc levels, and intestinal nutrient malabsorption have been found in AIDS patients. The above findings suggest that dietary manipulations might diminish the immune defects in HIV infection and enhance resistance to opportunistic infections. However, dietary alterations in immune defects are generally not well quantified and may be small relative to the magnitude of the defects observed in AIDS patients. Because conflicting or adverse effects have been reported for some nutrients, recommendations for dietary supplementation in HIV-infected individuals are premature and possibly hazardous. Further studies are much needed to relate dietary nutrient intakes to clinical outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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