A research study conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found nursing facility residents with normal levels of zinc were about fifty percent less likely to develop pneumonia. Those with normal zinc levels also had less need for new antibiotics, shorter duration of pneumonia when it was contracted, and shorter durations of antibiotic use than those with lower zinc levels. Those with normal zinc blood levels also had fewer mortalities. About 600 elderly residents of 33 nursing facilities were studied in the Boston area. The lead researcher, Dr. Medyani said, “Zinc is already known to strengthen the immune system; however, there needs to be further investigation of zinc and its effect on pneumonia development and prevention in nursing homes. The next step would be a clinical trial.” (Source: ABCnews.com)
Zinc is a mineral needed regularly in small amounts. Food sources of zinc are crimini mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, oysters, summer squash, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, miso, mustard greens, spinach, and beef.
Older people could be at some risk for having low zinc levels. A review of medical research in 2006 stated, “Zinc is essential for the immune system and elderly people have an increased probability for zinc deficiency, documented by a decline of serum or plasma zinc levels with age. Although most healthy elderly are not classified as clinically zinc deficient, even marginal zinc deprivation can affect immune function.” (Source: Pubmed.gov)
Zinc absorption might be compromised by supplementing with other minerals such as iron. A research study published in 2003 observed iron supplements can interfere with zinc uptake. Also getting too much zinc can reduce the amount of copper absorbed. “A study at the Nutrition Center conducted by Drs. David Milne and Cindy Davis, showed that women volunteers fed 53 mg of zinc per day in an otherwise normal diet with 1 mg of copper, or about the average copper intake of most women, began to develop some signs of low copper status after about 90 days.” (Source: USDA.gov)
Because these nutritional and health issues are complicated to the point of being confusing for someone untrained in medicine and nutrition, it would probably be best to consult with a health professional if you suspect yourself, or someone you know to be experiencing a zinc deficiency.
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