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August 13, 2010

Zinc prevents from flu & pneumonia in elderly

According to a new study, the essential mineral zinc, plays a vital role in preventing diseases like the flu & pneumonia in the elderly.

Researchers delving into the immune response & respiratory infections in the aged found that those who 've lower than normal levels of serum zinc concentration in the blood were more prone to developing pneumonia.
Lead author of the study, Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the nutritional immunology laboratory at the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts stated, “Not only did (people with lower zinc concentrations) 've a higher risk of developing pneumonia, when they did become sick, they did not recover as quickly & required a longer course of antibiotics.”

With the aim to determine the inter-relationship between nutrition, aging & health the researchers examined 617 people 65 and older in 33 nursing homes in the Boston area. The scientists took blood samples from the participants at the onset of the study & then towards the close of the study. They found that a majority of the residents had a low zinc status.

As a part of the study, all the participants received daily supplements containing 50% of the recommended dietary allowance of the required vitamins & minerals, including zinc, for one year. The researchers found that the participants with normal blood zinc concentrations were 50% less likely to develop pneumonia as opposed to those with lower concentrations.

In addition, subjects with a normal zinc status required lesser new prescriptions for antibiotics, suffered from a shorter bout of pneumonia and needed a shorter course of antibiotic use compared with those who had low zinc levels. Moreover, the rate of mortality from all causes was 39% lower in people with adequate levels of the mineral.

“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,” Meydani said. The study published in the Oct. issue of the 'American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  

Benefits of zinc supplements:

Zinc is an essential mineral required by humans. It plays a variety of biological roles in the body including catalytic, structural, & regulatory roles.
  • It maintains memory, prevents premature delivery, combats some vision problems, synthesizes proteins & maintains sense of taste.
  • It is required to heal injuries, to maintain fertility in adults & growth in children, support immune function, & protect the body against the oxidative effects of free radicals.
  • Zinc deficiency is linked to liver cirrhosis, malabsorption syndromes, & Down's syndrome.
  • The adult Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc is about 15 milligrams a day for adult men & women & slightly more for women that are pregnant or nursing.
However, one should not take more than 50 milligrams of zinc without a physician's recommendation. Zinc in amounts greater than 200 mg a day can cause problems such as nausea, vomiting, & diarrhoea. Red meat, poultry, whole grains, beans, dairy products & oysters are examples of foods that provide zinc.

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