Zinc may help boost seniors’ immunity

Zinc supplements kicked up the serum zinc levels and the immune systems of seniors in a small study.

A small study shows big promise for zinc supplements as tools for boosting the immunity of older adults.

As we age, our immune systems naturally weaken and we we’re more at risk for disease and infection.

"Our previous work showed that 30 percent of nursing home residents have low serum zinc levels, and those with low serum zinc levels had a significantly higher incidence of pneumonia and morbidity from it,” the study’s lead author, Simin Nikbin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D., the director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, and senior scientist and director of its Nutritional Immunology Laboratory, said in a university release.

His team found that zinc supplements can boost those serum zinc levels, and that the increase is associated with better T-cell numbers and function. T-cells are critical to immune function. The “results strongly suggest that ensuring adequate zinc consumption by older adults could have a significant impact on reducing the incidence of and morbidity from infection, which is a major public health problem in older adults," Meydani said.

The three-month long, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involved 25 adults age 65 years or older from Boston-area nursing homes. The results were published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Other recent research points to zinc as one of the most important essential trace metals in human nutrition and lifestyle. Studies have suggested it may help with everything from depression to wound healing.

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