Wrinkles aren’t the only thing you have to worry about as you age—your body’s immune system is also impaired, which makes it tougher for it to fight infections and for vaccines to work when administered. But findings from a recent study conducted on aging mice published in the journal Cell Reports suggest that getting dosed with antioxidants may help mitigate these effects, reports ScienceDaily.com.

The study examined certain types of immune cells and the effects something called age-related oxidative stress had on them. “Oxidative stress” refers to the damaging of proteins, lipids, and other cellular components in the body by naturally generated chemicals called free radicals as a result of oxidation, which occurs when these components are exposed to oxygen and other substances. These damaged proteins and other molecules can become toxic to your body’s cells. Fortunately, to manage oxidative stress, your body generates different types of enzymes to combat free radicals. But as you get older, your body begins to produce more free radicals and less antioxidant enzymes, and as a result, your body starts to build up the toxic cellular components.

For the study, researchers from Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine injected a potent antioxidant into aging mice every day for two weeks. This ended up reversing some of the effects of oxidative stress. The results of the study could impact how vaccines and therapies for humans are designed. Older people, in general, have weaker immune systems, which makes them more likely to succumb to infections and cancer and less likely to respond effectively to vaccines, so these findings may impact how they are treated in the future. “Perhaps a cycle of therapy with antioxidants before vaccination might improve their immune response to vaccines,” Laura Santambrogio, MD, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor of pathology and of microbiology and immunology at Yeshiva University, is quoted as saying.

The takeaway from this is just one more reason to increase your intake of antioxidants, especially as you get older. MayoClinic.org identifies the following as top sources of antioxidants: berries, beans, fruits, vegetables, green tea, red wine, coffee, nuts, herbs, oat-based products, and dark chocolate.

(Photo by Javier Bouzas via Flickr Creative Commons)

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