Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Leonard C. Kappel


Throughout history, people speculated that an association existed between nutrition and disease prevention. Recently, studies have examined the influence of single nutrients on immunological mechanisms, but with limited focus on marginal deficiencies. This project investigated the effects of severe, marginal, and adequate levels of dietary magnesium and copper on immune function. Three experiments were conducted, with 100 gm male rats consuming one treatment diet for three, four or eight weeks. Mineral levels used were: (1) magnesium--50 ug/gm, 160 ug/gm, 280 ug/gm, 400 ug/gm; (2) copper--0.5 ug/gm, 2.0 ug/gm, 3.5 ug/gm, 5.0 ug/gm; or (3) a combination of the severely deficient and marginal levels of magnesium and copper. Results showed that within two weeks, plasma magnesium and copper levels reflected the amount of mineral in the diets. Ceruloplasmin paralleled plasma copper concentrations. IgM and IgG concentrations correlated with plasma magnesium levels. Only the severely copper deficient rats had lower IgM. The gamma globulins were dramatically reduced with the combined magnesium and copper severe deficiency. Lymphocyte proliferation following mitogen stimulation was not altered in magnesium deficient rats. Stimulation indexes were lower with the severe copper deficient treatment. Proliferation rates after ConA stimulation for marginally copper deficient rats were higher, but the differences were not statistically significant. Antibody response to heterologous red blood cells tended to be lower in severely magnesium or copper deficient rats, and higher in marginally copper deficient rats. The combined severe deficiency and combined marginal deficiencies with 2.0 ug copper/gm had higher proliferation rates with ConA and significantly lower rates with PWM. Mean specific antibody response tended to be lower in severely deficient rats. Neutrophil function was not altered by magnesium or copper deficiencies. However, a greater percentage of neutrophils from severely magnesium and copper deficient rats ingested bacteria, but bactericidal activity was similar to neutrolphils from control animals. Neutrophil myeloperoxidase activity was higher in rats with the combined severe deficiency. The results from these experiments indicated a tendency toward altered immune function with severely deficient magnesium or copper diets, while marginal deficiencies did not always appear to have an effect.