Despite many so-called health “experts’” guffawing at zinc, I’ve never stopped recommending it. It’s absolutely essential for so many things—from neurological function, to immunity, to growth and development in children. And now, a new study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research shows that zinc deficiency could play a role in chronic diseases that involve inflammation.
Researchers zeroed in on zinc after noting that a number of age-related immune problem seem to go hand in hand with declining zinc status.
So the research team compared zinc levels in old and young people, and looked at how declining zinc levels impacted immune response. They found that zinc appears to affect how the immune system responds to stimulation, especially inflammation.
More specifically, zinc deficiency increased inflammatory response in cells, which caused improper immune cell activation.
In other words, when subjects didn’t have enough zinc, their immune cells just stop acting the way they’re supposed to act, allowing inflammation to take over. And as I’ve told you many times before, inflammation is the root of virtually all major diseases.
So has your doctor told you to take zinc? My guess is “no.” In fact, if they mentioned it at all I would bet he or she told you the only thing it would do is give you expensive urine (mainstream doctors’ favorite joke).
But the fact is, about 40 percent of people in the U.S. over the age of 65 aren’t getting enough zinc. Older adults tend to eat fewer zinc-rich foods. Mostly because their doctors have told them NOT to.
You see, some of the best sources of zinc are protein-rich foods like meat, eggs, and shellfish. And mainstream nutrition “experts” have been warning people for decades to limit the consumption of these foods because they contain cholesterol. (A notion that will hopefully be going the way of the dinosaur soon. Check out the article “‘Big Changes to the US Dietary Guidelines for 2015: Everything you need to know to sort through the hype and come out healthier than ever,” in the March issue of my Logical Health Alternatives newsletter for more. Subscribers can download this issue for free from the Archives by visiting www.drpescatore.com and signing in with your username and password. And if you’re not already a subscriber, the website also has all the information you need to become one today).
Combine this dietary shortfall with the fact that your ability to absorb zinc decreases with age, and it’s no wonder zinc deficiency is a particularly insidious problem among the over-50 set.
So how do you know if you’re getting enough? According to the study’s author, there is no good clinical biomarker test to determine zinc levels. But that’s not true… there is a blood test called an RBC mineral screening, which I perform on a routine basis in all my patients. It measures magnesium, potassium, chromium, zinc, copper, manganese and calcium. These are all trace minerals that play a role in every function in the body, so it’s important to know your levels.
My recommendation: Ask your doctor for an RBC screening and work with your doctor to interpret the results (“normal” zinc levels often vary greatly from lab to lab, but you want yours to be well within the upper “normal” range). It’s also a good idea to take at least 30 mg of zinc each day, along with 1 mg of copper to make sure you stay well balanced.
“Zinc deficiency enhanced inflammatory response by increasing immune cell activation and inducing IL6 promoter demethylation.” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, epub ahead of print 3/17/15