Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences

Department name when degree awarded


Committee Chair(s)

Arthur W. Mahoney


Arthur W. Mahoney


Paul Carter


Ethelyn Wilcox


Deloy Hendricks


A considerable amount of research has shown that a severe dietary deficiency of protein or vitamins will markedly depress antibody synthesis. Very little work has been done with the effect of mineral deficiencies on antibody production, and no evidence has been presented showing the relationship of the effects of small changes in nutrient intake to the sensitivity of the antibody response to small degrees of malnutrition and the relationship of dietary iron, calcium and vitamin D to the production of antibodies.

In two experiments, it was shown that as the level of iron in the diet is decreased, the production of antibodies is decreased proportionally. In the first iron experiment, 42, weanling male rats were given 7 levels of iron ranging from 20 to 5 mg Fe/kg diet. Antibody titer after immunization with tetanus toxoid was decreased proportionally from 88 to 17. In a second iron experiment, 10 raths were given either 10 or 0 mg Fe/kg diet and their titers to tetanus toxoid were 340 and 19 respectively.

In another two experiments, it was found that the level of dietary calcium makes little or no significant difference on antibody production, when fed either with or without vitamin D. In the first calcium experiment, 20 rats were given either 6.3, 4.4. or 3.2 gm Ca/kg diet and their antibody titers after tetanus toxoid immunization ranged from 88 to 55. in the final calcium study, 50 rats were divided into ten groups and given five different levels of dietary calcium ranging from 6.3 to 1.3 gm Ca/kg diet. Half of each dietary group was given adequate vitamin D and vitamin D was withheld from the other half. In this experiment, antibody titers to tetanus toxoid ranged from 90 to 110.

From the results of these experiments, it is apparent that dietary iron plays an important role in the synthesis of antibodies and thus in the maintainance of resistance against infectious disease. It is also evident that the antibody response is sensitive to different degrees of malnutrition, with antibody production being decreased proportionally to the severity of the dietary deficiency.