Vitamin E and respiratory infections

by Harri Hemila

Department of Public Health
University of Helsinki, Finland
Oct 14
, 2022

  1. Pneumonia

  2. Tuberculosis

  3. The common cold

  4. Reviews

  5. Letters and commentaries



About 89% of the variation in the effect of vitamin E supplementation on pneumonia risk for five subgroups of the ATBC population was true variation in vitamin E effect instead of chance variation.
Hemila H.
6.Vitamin E and the risk of pneumonia: using the I2-statistic to quantify heterogeneity within a controlled trial.
British Journal of Nutrition 2016

Vitamin E may decrease the incidence of pneumonia in elderly males by 72% if they are not smoking
Hemila H.
5.Vitamin E administration may decrease the incidence of pneumonia in elderly males.
Clinical Interventions in Aging 2016;11:1379-1385

Very strong evidence that vitamin E effect on pneumonia incidence is modified by smoking and level of exercise (P = 0.0004)
Vitamin E increased risk in some people, decreased risk in some other people, and had no effect in the majority
Hemila H, Kaprio J.
4.Subgroup analysis of large trials can guide further research: a case study of vitamin E and pneumonia.
Clin Epidemiol 2011;3:51-59

Different approach compared with that above.
Restriction to males who started smoking at early age: pneumonia risk was increased 14% by vitamin E.
The increase in risk was restricted to low weight participants (+61%) and high weight participants (+134%).
Hemila H, Kaprio J.
3.Vitamin E supplementation and pneumonia risk in males who initiated smoking at an early age: effect modification by body weight and vitamin C.
Nutr J 2008;7:33

Vitamin E halved the incidence of pneumonia in Finnish males who carried out leisure time exercise.
Hemila H, Kaprio J, Albanes D, Virtamo J.
2.Physical activity and pneumonia in male smokers administered vitamin E and β-carotene.
Int J Sports Med 2006;27:336-341 

Vitamin E effect on the incidence of pneumonia was significantly modified by smoking
Hemila H, Virtamo J, Albanes D, Kaprio J.
1.Vitamin E and beta-carotene supplementation and hospital-treated pneumonia incidence in male smokers.
Chest 2004;125:557-565


Vitamin E increased TB risk by 125% in people who had high dietary intake of vitamin C and smoked heavily
Hemila H, Kaprio J.
Vitamin E supplementation may transiently increase tuberculosis risk in males who smoke heavily and have high dietary vitamin C intake.
Br J Nutr 2008;100:896-902 [Discussion: 2009;101:145-147]

The common cold

Very strong evidence that the effect of vitamin E on the risk of common cold depends on age.
Vitamin E increased or decreased common cold risk in men older than 65 years
Hemila H, Virtamo J, Albanes D, Kaprio J.
The effect of vitamin E on common cold incidence is modified by age, smoking and residential neighborhood.
J Am Coll Nutr 2006;25:332-339

Vitamin E had no substantial effect on common cold risk in males with heavy job or with heavy leisure time exercises.
Hemila H, Virtamo J, Albanes D, Kaprio J.
Physical activity and the common cold in men administered vitamin E and β-carotene.
MSSE 2003;35:1815-1820

Dietary vitamin E intake did not correlate with the common cold incidence
Hemila H, Kaprio J, Albanes D, Heinonen OP, Virtamo J.
Vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene in relation to common cold incidence in male smokers.
Epidemiology 2002;13:32-37


Vitamins C and E and zinc lozenges and the common cold
Hemila H.
Vitamins and minerals [book chapter].
In: "
Common cold" (Eccles R, Weber O, eds.) Birkhauser Verlag, 2009:275-307
Abstract and references:
   Available at:

Letters and commentaries

Hemila H.
Spectacular reduction in the mortality of acutely injured patients by the administration of vitamins C and E and selenium.
JPEN 2009;33:447-448

Hemila H.
Evidence-based medicine and the role of antioxidants in physically-stressed people.
Nutr Rev 2009;67:61-63

Hemila H.
Vitamin E supplementation and respiratory infections in the elderly.
JAGS 2007;55:1311-1313

Hemila H.
Conclusions about intervention effects should not be based on surrogate end points.
FRBM 2007;42:578

Hemila H
The effect of nutrition on exercise-induced immunodepression
Nutrition Reviews 2006;64:476-477

Hemila H.
Potential harm of vitamin E supplementation.
AJCN 2005;82:1141-1142

Hemila H, Kaprio J.
Vitamin E and respiratory tract infections in elderly persons.
JAMA 2004;292:2834