Zinc deficiency lowers immune response, increasing risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes
Many natural defenses slowly begin to decline after we reach our fourth decade of life; due, in large part, to suboptimal nutrition from processed foods, environmental and household pollutants and lack of physical activity. Maintaining sufficient levels of critical nutrients has been shown to help prevent many chronic diseases. Most commercially produced foods and even naturally harvested vegetables and fruits are deficient in key nutrients due to soil depletion and the use of pesticides.
Nutrition researchers know that many children and adults do not attain an ideal intake of essential vitamins and minerals from their diet, but did not fully understand the precise biological link behind poor nutrition and development of chronic illnesses. Researchers from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences have published the result of a study in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry that outlines the biological mechanism by which deficiency in the essential mineral, zinc can develop with age.
The scientists found that lack of dietary zinc leads to a decline of the immune system and increased inflammation associated with many health problems, including cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease and diabetes. The scientists noted that while optimal zinc intake is critical at all stages of life, from adolescence through adulthood, it is especially important for aging adults when absorption is limited and higher levels are required to boost immune response.
Zinc lowers systemic inflammation and promotes optimal immune health
The study team; therefore, concentrated on zinc deficiency in senior adults. The researchers noted "About 40 percent of elderly Americans and as many as two billion people around the world have diets that are deficient in this important, but often underappreciated micronutrient." Prior studies have confirmed that zinc transporters were significantly dysregulated in old animals. They showed signs of zinc deficiency and had an enhanced inflammatory response even though their diet supposedly contained adequate amounts of zinc.
Performing a study using lab animals with similar biochemistry to humans, the researchers determined that when aging animals were supplemented with approximately 10 times their dietary requirement for zinc, the biomarkers of inflammation were restored to those of young animals. Scientists conducting the study confirmed "We've previously shown in both animal and human studies that zinc deficiency can cause DNA damage, and this new work shows how it can help lead to systemic inflammation."
Some degree of inflammation is normal and required to promote wound healing and support metabolic functions and immune response. Poor diet and lifestyle over many years both promote a state of constant systemic inflammation. Zinc has been shown to be an essential mineral required to help squelch the damage wreaked on the delicate lining of our vast vascular network. Adults approaching middle age will want to supplement with zinc (nutrition experts recommend 25 to 50 mg per day) to promote immune health and lower the risk of many chronic diseases.
Dr Darius H Umrigar MD(AM)