Zinc Can Help Prevent Pneumonia In Over Sixties

August 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Health, Healthy Ageing, Vitamins & Supplements

Zinc is certainly an essential ingredient in your diet for fighting infection and something that I supplement with every winter to keep colds at bay and now my anecdotal experience has been medically validated.

That is probably a first, but a new report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that zinc plays a very important role in health maintenance, particularly for the over 60s. Simin Nikbin Meydani, DVM, PhD of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Massachusetts studied over 600 people from 33 different nursing homes in the Boston area.

What they found was that those with healthy blood levels of zinc are 50 percent less likely to develop pneumonia than those with sub-par levels. The study was a follow-up to a previous one which found that people given 200 international units (IU) of vitamin E every day for one year are 20 percent less likely to develop upper respiratory infections, including common colds. But after a follow-up, the trial also revealed that a majority of those same participants had low levels of zinc in their blood. As we saw in the previous item, zinc is a necessary mineral for maintaining immune health, regulation of blood pressure and the mineralization of bone and as well as being essential For the eyes and prostate.

The study’s conclusion is that daily zinc intake can help nursing home residents who are susceptible to pneumonia as it can reduce the risk of developing pneumonia by about 50%. Plus – bearing in mind the previous item – not only did those participants have a higher risk of developing pneumonia when they did become sick, they did not recover as quickly and required a longer course of antibiotics.

Another factor to bear in mind is that they also found that those who were taking regular zinc supplements also had a 39% lower rate of deaths from all causes than a comparable group who were not taking supplements.

Food sources:

Best sources of zinc are the protein foods including beef, lamb, pork, crabmeat, turkey, chicken, lobster, oysters, clams and salmon. Other good sources are dairy products, yeast, peanuts, beans, and wholegrain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potato and yogurt. For vegetarians and vegans pumpkin seeds offer one of the most concentrated non-meat food sources of zinc.

If you have a good and varied diet then your body getting enough zinc, the RDA for adults is around 11 mg a day, but the actual amount your body can absorb may be as little as 15 to 40% but you can improve this if you are taking Vitamins C, E and B6 and minerals such as magnesium as they can increase zinc absorption in the body.

Think Z’s for winter protection

I am not talking about catching up on your sleep, though winter is the time for slowing down and even hibernating if you are a bear! Z is for zinc and although perhaps it’s best known, and most popular effect is on the sex drive, it is also essential for supporting the immune system.

Many people get shots for flu or pneumonia with the onset of winter, but their effectiveness is reduced if you don’t have a strong immune system to help support their benefits. It’s a bit like swallowing vitamins to help your health,but not eating regularly or well – they will not do the job on their own. The truth is that once you get over the age of 55, you are likely to have a zinc deficiency and this leads to a greater susceptibility to infections, and increased oxidative stress. The good news is that this is easily reversed by taking a zinc supplement for just one year. The suggested dose is 45mg daily and a US study that showed that just that amount reduced the incidence of infections and inflammation. Speaking specifically about pneumonia, there is a new study from the Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in the US that looked at residents in Nursing homes in Boston. Half the residents were given a placebo, and half given daily supplements of vitamins, including zinc. The trial lasted a year and at the end of it everyone was given a blood test to check their zinc levels. Interestingly the trial only gave people half the recommended dietary allowance, and yet those who received the supplements and had nearly normal zinc levels had less incidence and duration of pneumonia, together with less use of antibiotics. Of those who were given antibiotics, the patients with low blood levels of zinc needed greater amounts than those with reasonable zinc levels.

The researchers were very clear that taking zinc supplements could help the over 55′s to reduce the frequency and serious effects of attacks of pneumonia – which can be fatal in vulnerable patients.

Although the US study suggested 45mg a day for supplementation, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) is just 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Many nutritionists consider the RDA to be far too low but you might want to start with that and gradually increase the amount – or talk it over with your doctor if you are concerned.

Need more reasons to up your zinc levels? As well as helping protect your immune system zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, protects your eyes from age-related macular degeneration and it inhibits the abnormal blood clotting that contributes to heart disease. Don’t like supplements? Make a point of adding zinc-rich foods to your daily diet such as red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products. Two of the best sources are oysters and cabbage, though not at the same time if you have any respect for your taste buds!