Photo of high zinc foods
High zinc foods include oysters, as well as beef, lamb, sesame and pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas and cashews.

Zinc deficiency linked to inflammation, poor immunity

2 April, 2015

Natural Health News— Zinc, an important mineral in human health, appears to affect our immune system response, particularly in older individuals.

Using an animal model researchers at Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences set out to better understand the relationship between zinc deficiency and inflammation. Their research indicates that zinc deficiency causes an inflammatory response in cells and this response was particularity acute in older mice.

The findings were published recently in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.

Changes needed to RDAs?

Understanding the role of zinc in the body is important to determining whether dietary guidelines for zinc need to be adjusted. The recommended daily intake of zinc for adults is 8 milligrams for women and 11 milligrams for men, regardless of age. The guidelines may need to be adjusted for older adults to ensure they are getting enough zinc, say the authors.

“We think zinc deficiency is probably a bigger problem than most people realize,” said Emily Ho, a professor and director of the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health in the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and lead author of the study.

“Preventing that deficiency is important.”

About zinc

Zinc is an essential micronutrient required for many biological processes, including growth and development, neurological function and immunity.

Oysters have a particularly high zinc content. Other high zinc foods include beef, lamb, sesame and pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas and cashews as well as turkey, quiona and oats, spinach and asparagus and shrimp as well as shiitake and crimini mushrooms.

Deficiency has been shown to play a role in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes that involve inflammation. Such diseases often show up in older adults, who are more at risk for zinc deficiency because they tend to eat fewer zinc-rich foods and their bodies do not appear to use or absorb zinc as well, making them more susceptible to zinc deficiency.