HIV/AIDS

05 April 2002

Aids and supplements

Research studies indicate that increasing the intake of certain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can boost the immune system and help the body to fight against AIDS, thus prolonging life. Patients must also keep in mind that most of the anti-AIDS drugs deplete one or more vitamins and/or minerals in the body.

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Supplements to increase immunity

Research studies indicate that increasing the intake of certain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids can boost the immune system and help the body to fight against AIDS, thus prolonging life. Patients must also keep in mind that most of the anti-AIDS drugs deplete one or more vitamins and/or minerals in the body.

The association between vitamins, minerals and AIDS is complicated and taking vast doses of certain of these micronutrients may even hamper the immune system. So let's take a brief look at some of the micronutrients and how much you should be taking:

Beta-carotene: modest doses of about 180 mg/day can stimulate immune response and increase the number of helper T-cells

Vitamin A: modest doses stimulate immune function, but excessive doses can suppress the immune response

Vitamin E: supplementation of 4 X the RDA or 40 mg/day restores cell-mediated immunity and increases T-cell number and activity, but megadoses (300 mg/day) have an inhibitory effect

Vitamin B12: Up to 1/3 of AIDS patients suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency which can lead to anaemia. AZT can also cause anaemia and patients should take at least the RDA for vitamin B2, namely 3 microgram/day.

Pyridoxine or B6: This B vitamin is also often lacking in AIDS patients and because it is required for protein synthesis, a pyridoxine deficiency can have more serious effects on the immune system than other B-group vitamins. Positive responses have been produced in HIV patients receiving 20 mg per day.

Next week we will have a close look at other vitamin and mineral supplements which can help the body to fight the ravages of HIV and AIDS.

Dr Ingrid van Heerden, registered dietician

 

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HIV/Aids expert

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria before working for an HIV/AIDS NPO in Soweto for many years. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans in 2012.

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