A study published Tuesday, November 26, 2013 in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that long-term (24-month) supplementation with multivitamins plus the mineral selenium delayed the onset of AIDS symptoms for patients recently diagnosed as infected with HIV. This study was conducted by a group of researchers led by Marianna Baum, Professor in the Department of Dietetics and Nutrition at the Florida International University (FIU) Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, along with FIU colleagues Adriana Campa and Sabrina Sales and Harvard University researchers. The study was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The daily dose of multivitamins and minerals in the early stages of HIV infection delayed progression of the illness associated with HIV by as much as 54 percent in people who were not receiving antiretroviral drugs, according to the study. Researchers from FIU and Harvard University followed 878 HIV-infected patients in Botswana, a nation in Africa where HIV infection is prevalent, and tracked the progression of their disease for two years, finding that patients who received daily supplements of vitamins B, C and E plus selenium had a lower risk of depleting the number of immune response cells in their bodies. The supplements also reduced the risk of other measures of disease progression, including AIDS symptoms and AIDS-related deaths, of which there were four in the study group.
Vitamins B, C and E are essential for maintaining a responsive immune system, and selenium also plays an important role in the immune system and preventing HIV replication. There is already a considerable volume of research indicating that these key nutrients can prevent or slow the progression of AIDS. Selenium is already well-recognized as a mineral that can dramatically reduce cancer rates, as a strong, healthy immune system can eradicate cancer cells before they develop into a detectable cancer growth.
"The disease impacts metabolism and increases the requirement for vitamins and minerals," Baum said, "and if people don't take additional vitamins and minerals they become deficient, which in turn impacts immunity." These latest findings suggest that AIDS may in fact occur due to depletion of nutrients essential to a healthy immune system. That depletion can arise due to the presence of HIV and other unchecked pathogens as well as deficient diets, substance abuse, medications, chronic stress, and unhealthy lifestyles. Thus, successful treatment for HIV and AIDS could focus on addressing the nutrient needs and lifestyle factors that affect the development and progression of illness. It appears that AIDS can often be prevented in those diagnosed HIV+ by applying nutritional interventions. This may be especially important in places like Africa, where malnutrition and lack of access to nutritious food and supplements is common, a situation that is likely to foster AIDS deaths (or deaths related to immune system breakdown, whether or not HIV is involved).