The reason why I titled this article zinc benefits your immune system is because this trace mineral is absolutely essential to a healthy immune system.
Currently our world is going through a major health scare due to COVID-19, which is a coronavirus. This is a new strain that seems to have originated out of China.
Now it’s important to note a couple of things before we get back to how zinc benefits your immune system.
Item #1 – Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that include the common cold. Some of these viruses are extremely deadly like the MERS-Cov and SARS-CoV. At least initially because people have not build up an immunity to them. This is why COVID-19 has had such an effect on the health of people. It’s a new strain that the human body is not used to, and doesn’t have an immunity to it. Which leads to the next item.
Item #2 – COVID-19 has been deadliest to older adults who have a compromised immune system. This is not to say that those with a good immune system will not get sick. But those who are younger, and have a more vibrant and active immune system, usually respond well to treatment.
So what does this have to do with how zinc benefits your immune system?
Well, as people age they suffer what is called “micronutrient malnutrition.” Micronutrient malnutrition is when a person lacks essential vitamins and trace minerals. This situation is common in older adults because they tend to eat less. And they have less variety in their diet.
Add to this the fact that today’s food supply is sorely lacing in trace minerals, and you can understand why the immune system of older adults are compromised.
A good example of this is a 2007 study of adults aged 55 to 87 who had lower plasma zinc levels when compared to younger adults. These older adults also had higher oxidative stress and inflammatory markers. This group of older adults were split so that half took a zinc supplement and the other half took a placebo.
After 12 months they were retested. The zinc group had a significantly lower rate of respiratory infections. And their markers for inflammation and oxidative stress were also lower.
More recently, a 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated how zinc benefits your immune system. In this study they gave zinc-deficient nursing home residents either a zinc supplement or a placebo. After three months, the zinc group had an increase in their T cell numbers as well as an increase in their serum zinc.
Zinc Benefits Your Immune System – The Basics
Zinc is a trace mineral that is essential to a healthy immune system. It is critical to the proper functioning of at least 100 different enzymes. Many of these enzymes reside in your gut microbiome helping you to process your food properly.
Modern science estimates that 70 to 80% of your immune system is determined by the health of your gut microbiome. This means that if those enzymes in your gut to not function properly, due to lack of zinc in your diet, then your immune system will be less effective in protecting you from viruses and harmful bacteria.
And may compromise your ability to get well, even when medical intervention takes place.
Zinc is second only to iron as the most abundant trace mineral in your body. For adults the recommended daily dosage is 15 – 30 mg of elemental zinc. And unless you are under medical supervision, you should not exceed the upper limit of 40 mg per day.
So how do you get the needed zinc to help your body’s immune system function properly?
Well you have 3 choices: Diet, Supplements, or a Combination of Both
If you choose diet, then this list of foods from MedicalNewsToday provides you with some guidelines:
oysters, 3 ounces (oz): 74 mg
beef patty, 3 oz: 5.3 mg
Alaska king crab, 3 oz: 6.5 mg
fortified breakfast cereal, 3/4 cup serving: 3.8 mg
cooked lobster, 3 oz: 3.4 mg
cooked pork chop loin, 3 oz: 2.9 mg
baked beans, 1/2 cup serving: 2.9 mg
dark meat chicken, 3 oz: 2.4 mg
Now when you look at this list it’s easy to see why most adults may be lacking in their zinc intake. Because of this you might op for a supplement. The following list of supplement types is from Healthline:
Zinc gluconate: As one of the most common over-the-counter forms of zinc, zinc gluconate is often used in cold remedies, such as lozenges and nasal sprays (2).
Zinc acetate: Like zinc gluconate, zinc acetate is often added to cold lozenges to reduce symptoms and speed up the rate of recovery (3Trusted Source).
Zinc sulfate: In addition to helping prevent zinc deficiency, zinc sulfate has been shown to reduce the severity of acne (4Trusted Source).
Zinc picolinate: Some research suggests that your body may absorb this form better than other types of zinc, including zinc gluconate and zinc citrate (5Trusted Source).
Zinc orotate: This form is bound to orotic acid and one of the most common types of zinc supplements on the market (6).
Zinc citrate: One study showed that this type of zinc supplement is as well-absorbed as zinc gluconate but has a less bitter, more appealing taste (7Trusted Source).
If you decide to use a zinc supplement, then make sure you find out how much “Elemental Zinc” the supplement actually delivers. This is key to making sure you get enough. And not exceed the upper limit of 40 mg per day.
Zinc is essential for proper cell proliferation and DNA synthesis. Because of this they are critical to the proliferation of your immune cells.
Additionally, the growth and function of immune cells like macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, T cells, and B cells can all be impaired by a zinc deficiency.
Zinc also plays a role in reducing oxidative stress, which if left unchecked can lead to chronic inflammation.
As you take precautions to protect yourself from COVID-19 and other Coronaviruses you might want to examine your Zinc intake. Look at the supplement facts of the foods that you eat. If the amounts add up to less than 15 mg per day, then maybe it’s time to add a zinc supplement to your diet.