- Having low levels of zinc, which is important for immune support, heightens the incidences of infections and risks for autoimmune diseases in the elderly.
- According to studies, older adults with low serum zinc levels are more vulnerable to respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, as well as cancers.
- Improving zinc status through healthy eating can help delay the decline of immune functions along with lessening the rate of infections.
Our immune systems weaken as we grow older. When this happens, serious health problems and even death, may result. Decreasing levels of zinc, a crucial trace mineral that supports immune functions, can threaten immunity and increase risks of infectious diseases, particularly in older adults, whose immune systems become impaired with age. In fact, infections are a chief cause of death among the elderly.
To minimize this decline, it is important to reduce susceptibility to respiratory illness though a diet packed with phytochemicals for their anti-microbial and immune-boosting effects, and other essential nutrients. Sources of these include colorful veggies, fruits and other plant foods.
Maintaining Zinc Levels during Aging
Weakened immune functions not only increases vulnerability to pneumonia and influenza, but also amplifies risk for developing autoimmune diseases and cancers. What makes it even worse is aging makes the body lose its ability to absorb and synthesize nutrients as efficiently.
Lower zinc levels and low intake are generally noted among the elderly. According to one study, 30 percent of nursing home residents reported low serum zinc levels (amount in the blood) and those with low serum zinc levels had a significantly greater incidence of pneumonia and mortality from it. Serum zinc levels are considered low at less than 70 mcg per deciliter while amounts equal to or higher this amount is counted as adequate.
Research suggests that improving zinc status can hinder the decline of immune functions at the same time boost resistance to infection. Results of a 2007 study showed a significantly lower rate of respiratory infections, oxidative stress and markers of inflammation among adults between ages 55 to 87 years who took zinc supplements for a year, than in the placebo group.
Additionally, researchers also found that zinc supplementation of 30mg a day over a period of three months increased the serum zinc and improved the function of T-cells of zinc-deficient nursing home residents, per a 2016 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Aside from those not eating an optimal diet that enhances immunity, people eating healthy diets may still need zinc supplementation. Those who follow a total plant-based diet need roughly 50 percent higher zinc needs because of lowered bioavailability from plant foods. The antioxidant compound phytate sourced from whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, blocks the absorption of certain minerals. Iron and calcium, likewise, meddle with absorption efficacy, while copper and zinc compete for absorption sites within the body’s cells.
Immunity-Boosting Effects of Zinc
Zinc supports a number of functions in the body. In addition to strengthening the immune system, it also aids the body to make proteins and DNA. This is why immune cells like macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, T cells, and B cells, that rely much on an adequate supply of zinc, are greatly impaired with zinc deficiency.
Furthermore, zinc contributes to structurally stabilizing proteins, controls gene expression, and triggers chemical reactions in the body. Zinc also plays an important role in the regulation of neurotransmitter release, insulin packaging and secretion. Also, it promotes wound healing, and its antioxidant properties help lower oxidative stress.
Maintaining adequate zinc levels is vital for good health and also a key to living a long life. Zinc, together with plant-rich, nutrient dense diets, can hinder aging and minimize your risks for pneumonia and other life-threatening infections.
Via Very Well Health