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Zinc: How Zinc Can Boost Your Immune Health

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Zinc: How Zinc Can Boost Your Immune Health
By Frederik 10 months ago 240 Views

The onset of cold and flu season serves as a reminder of the critical importance of maintaining adequate stores of the mineral zinc.

While best known for its role in fighting colds and flus, zinc has far-ranging effects on human health, from strengthening the body’s immune defenses to promoting optimal growth and development [1]

The tenth most common element in the human body, zinc is vital to the functioning of more than 300 hormones and enzymes [2].

One of the most important of these is copper/zinc superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme associated with longevity and protection against oxidative stress [3-5].

Zinc deficiency is associated with numerous disease states and even with DNA damage, which may contribute to cancer [6].

With a preponderance of scientific evidence suggesting that zinc deficiency is common and throughout the world, it is all the more important that health-conscious adults take steps to ensure optimal zinc status.

 

Boosting the Body’s Antioxidant Defenses

Zinc is an essential component of one of the body’s most important natural antioxidants, the enzyme known as copper/zinc superoxide dismutase (Cu/Zn SOD [3,4]. Cu/Zn SOD is one of a family of antioxidant enzymes that disarm dangerous superoxide radicals, which can wreak havoc on cellular compounds such as lipids, proteins, and DN [5,7]. Cu/Zn SOD rapidly breaks these compounds down into hydrogen peroxide, which is quickly converted to harmless water and ordinary oxygen [8].

 

A Cornerstone of Healthy Immune Function

In addition to bolstering the body’s antioxidant defenses, zinc plays a crucial role in supporting proper immune system function [9-12]. T-lymphocytes are white blood cells that help fight infection and depend on zinc for their development and activation. In humans, zinc deficiency can result in a decreased number of T-lymphocytes and a diminished ability to fight infection and heal wound [13-18].

Maintaining adequate levels of zinc is equally important to aging adults. As people grow older, their immune function declines, partly due to the decreasing size and function of the thymus gland. New evidence suggests that zinc may help to maintain healthy function of the thymus gland in elderly people [19]. Scientists have also found evidence that a zinc deficiency in elderly adults may contribute to impaired immune function with aging, or immunosenescence [20]. These findings suggest that zinc plays a critical role in supporting healthy immune function with age.

 

Zinc Fights Symptoms of the Common Cold

One of zinc’s most important uses in recent years is reducing the severity and duration of colds. The common cold is caused by any one of more than 200 distinct viruses that target the respiratory tract [23]. Zinc interferes with the viruses’ ability to attach to the surface of respiratory tract cells and reproduce, which may help prevent infections from taking hold and causing symptoms [24].

To be most effective, zinc lozenges should be taken within 24 hours of the appearance of initial cold symptoms, and should be taken continuously throughout the course of the illness. Although generally well tolerated, some patients have reported mild nausea when taking zinc lozenges, and temporary alterations in taste sensation are not uncommon. Taking zinc with food may help to alleviate these effects.

Mild Zinc Deficiency “Common” in the world Zinc deficiency affects more than 2 billion people in both developing and developed nations [28] Moreover, zinc and iron deficits often go hand in hand.

A diet lacking adequate sources of bioavailable zinc (such as red meat) and high in dietary fiber (vegetarian or grain-based diets) carries a double risk of zinc deficiency.

Certain dietary fibers, calcium, and phytates (present in cereal products, legumes, and nuts) effectively block zinc absorption, while lack of beef (the richest natural source of zinc) leads to an inadequate dietary supply of this essential nutrient.

Long-term supplementation with high levels of zinc may deplete copper levels [29]. Thus, individuals supplementing with zinc may need to supplement concomitantly with copper.

 

Conclusion

Overwhelming scientific evidence from around the world underscores the critical importance of zinc to human health. Given this preponderance of evidence indicating zinc’s utter indispensability to health—and the widespread prevalence of zinc deficiency—it is prudent to include this potent micronutrient in one’s daily vitamin/mineral regimen.

References:

1. Grungreiff K, Reinhold D. Liver cirrhosis and “liver” diabetes mellitus are linked by zinc deficiency. Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(2):316-7.

2. Prasad AS. Zinc: the biology and therapeutics of an ion. Ann Intern Med. 1996 Jul 15;125(2):142-4.

3. Kasperczyk S, Birkner E, Kasperczyk A, Zalejska-Fiolka J. Activity of superoxide dismutase and catalase in people protractedly exposed to lead compounds. Ann Agric Environ Med. 2004;11(2):291-6.

4. Kocaturk PA, Kavas GO, Erdeve O, Siklar Z. Superoxide dismutase activity and zinc and copper concentrations in growth retardation. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2004;102(1-3):51-9.

5. Landis GN, Tower J. Superoxide dismutase evolution and life span regulation. Mech Ageing Dev. 2005 Mar;126(3):365-79.

6. Ames BN. DNA damage from micronutrient deficiencies is likely to be a major cause of cancer. Mutat Res. 2001 Apr 18;475(1-2):7-20.

7. Noor R, Mittal S, Iqbal J. Superoxide dismutase—applications and relevance to human diseases. Med Sci Monit. 2002 Sep;8(9):RA210-5.

8. Kato S, Saeki Y, Aoki M, et al. Histological evidence of redox system breakdown caused by superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) aggregation is common to SOD1-mutated motor neurons in humans and animal models. Acta Neuropathol (Berl). 2004 Feb;107(2):149-58.

9. Raqib R, Roy SK, Rahman MJ, et al. Effect of zinc supplementation on immune and inflammatory responses in pediatric patients with shigellosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Mar;79(3):444-50.

10. Bogden JD. Influence of zinc on immunity in the elderly. J Nutr Health Aging. 2004;8(1):48-54.

11. Field CJ, Johnson IR, Schley PD. Nutrients and their role in host resistance to infection. J Leukoc Biol. 2002 Jan;71(1):16-32.

12. Chandra RK. Impact of nutritional status and nutrient supplements on immune responses and incidence of infection in older individuals. Ageing Res Rev. 2004 Jan;3(1):91-104.

13. Fraker PJ, King LE. Reprogramming of the immune system during zinc deficiency. Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:277-98.

14. Fraker PJ, King LE, Laakko T, Vollmer TL. The dynamic link between the integrity of the immune system and zinc status. J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1399S-406S.

15. Lim Y, Levy M, Bray TM. Dietary zinc alters early inflammatory responses during cutaneous wound healing in weanling CD-1 mice. J Nutr. 2004 Apr;134(4):811-6.

16. Patrick L. Nutrients and HIV: part two—vitamins A and E, zinc, B-vitamins, and magnesium. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Feb;5(1):39-51.

17. Mitchell WA, Meng I, Nicholson SA, Aspinall R. Thymic output, aging and zinc. Biogerontology. 2006 Sep 9; [Epub ahead of print]

18. Herbein G, Varin A, Fulop T. NF-kappaB, AP-1, Zinc-deficiency and aging. Biogerontology. 2006 Sep 9; [Epub ahead of print].

19. Mossad SB, Macknin ML, Medendorp SV, Mason P. Zinc gluconate lozenges for treating the common cold. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Ann Intern Med. 1996 Jul 15;125(2):81-8.

20. Hulisz D. Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses: an overview. J Am Pharm Assoc (Wash.DC.). 2004 Sep;44(5):594-603.

21. Anzueto A, Niederman MS. Diagnosis and treatment of rhinovirus respiratory infections. Chest. 2003 May;123(5):1664-72.