—Beta-carotene has been shown to stimulate the immune systems of patients with HIV/AIDS (Coodley GO et al 1993). In people infected with HIV who were given 100,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A from beta-carotene daily for 4 weeks, white blood cell counts rose by 66 percent, but T-helper cells rose only slightly. Six weeks after beta-carotene treatment was discontinued, the immune-cell measurements returned to pretreatment levels (Fryburg DA et al 1995).
—Green tea leaves contain catechins with powerful antioxidant properties. The most abundant catechin found in green tea, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), inhibits HIV from infecting human T-cells. One recent study showed that EGCG can bind to T-cells and block the virus from attaching (Kawai K et al 2003). This breakthrough may significantly impact HIV research if future investigators can determine the precise location on the T-cells in which EGCG exerts its effect and whether it is the same location in which HIV binds to the T-cell.
—Selenium is required for proper functioning of the immune system (Look MP et al 1997). It is also essential in the synthesis of glutathione. Selenium’s many benefits include protecting the central nervous system from dementia caused by HIV (Shor-Posner G et al 2002a) and infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Shor-Posner G et al 2002b); slowing the loss of T-cells (Look MP et al 1997); and decreasing the effect of inflammatory cytokines, which may reduce the risk of developing neurological damage (Bjugstad KB et al 1998; Ryan LA et al 2001; Seilhean D et al 1997), Kaposi's sarcoma (a common HIV-associated cancer), and wasting syndrome. Selenium also suppresses the enhancing effect of cytokines on HIV replication (Hori K et al 1997; Tolando R et al 2000).
Vitamin C and N-acetylcysteine—Vitamin C
(ascorbic acid) and N-acetylcysteine (Renis HE 1975) have multiple benefits in patients with HIV/AIDS. They maintain glutathione levels (Fawzi WW et al 2004; McComsey G et al 2003), improve T-cell counts and reduce viral load in patients who have advanced AIDS (McComsey G et al 2003; Standish LJ et al 2001; Tantcheva LP et al 2003), and have a toxic effect on HIV-infected cells (high levels of vitamin C) (Harakeh S et al 1991; Rivas CI et al 1997). Supplementation with N-acetylcysteine is recommended for people who are infected with HIV, whether or not they are receiving HAART.
—Whey protein contains all essential and nonessential amino acids, which are important to maintaining an adequate immune system response. Whey is also an important supplement to help boost the body’s synthesis of glutathione, and clinical trials have successfully used whey protein in treating HIV (Marshall K 2004). Whey protein appears to be unique among proteins in its ability to improve immune function, elevate cellular glutathione levels, and maintain muscle mass (Marshall K 2004; Micke P et al 2002).