In the elderly, immunosenescence and malnourishment can contribute to increased risk and severity of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI). Gold kiwifruit (Actinidia chinensis ‘Hort16A’) contains nutrients important for immune function and mitigation of symptoms of infection, including vitamins C and E, folate, polyphenols and carotenoids. The objective of the present study was to evaluate whether regular consumption of gold kiwifruit reduces symptoms of URTI in older people, and determine the effect it has on plasma antioxidants, and markers of oxidative stress, inflammation and immune function. A total of thirty-two community-dwelling people ( ≥ 65 years) participated in a randomised crossover study, consuming the equivalent of four kiwifruit or two bananas daily for 4 weeks, with treatments separated by a 4-week washout period. Participants completed the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey-21 daily, and blood samples were collected at baseline and at the end of each treatment and washout period. Gold kiwifruit did not significantly reduce the overall incidence of URTI compared with banana, but significantly reduced the severity and duration of head congestion, and the duration of sore throat. Gold kiwifruit significantly increased plasma vitamin C, α-tocopherol and lutein/zeaxanthin concentrations, and erythrocyte folate concentrations, and significantly reduced plasma lipid peroxidation. No changes to innate immune function (natural killer cell activity, phagocytosis) or inflammation markers (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, homocysteine) were detected. Consumption of gold kiwifruit enhanced the concentrations of several dietary plasma analytes, which may contribute to reduced duration and severity of selected URTI symptoms, offering a novel tool for reducing the burden of URTI in older individuals.
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