Zinc, Longevity and Immunosenescence 

Zinc is an important mineral that has many roles to play in the body including in the immune system. It is needed for catalytic activity of various enzymes, the manufacturing of protein, wound healing, cell division and manufacturing DNA. Low levels of zinc may cause problems with immune function to fight off harmful compounds during the aging process. 

Zinc is a part of cellular metabolism, has a major function in biochemical pathways and is involved in cellular functions. Eating a healthy diet including sources of zinc is important in keeping the immune system healthy with aging. Zinc is found in foods such as whole grains and fortified breakfast cereals, some types of seafood, nuts, beans and dairy products. 

The biology of aging is a multifaceted process where cells change, particularly in the immune system and if zinc is deficient there are multiple problems that occur. Immunosenescence is described as a process of abnormal immune responses that cause inflammation and a breakdown of antioxidant defenses. Immunosenescence leads to cellular problems. 

Cellular homeostasis is the body’s balance of internal, physical, and biochemical conditions maintained in a steady state. It is an optimal functioning of the body. The balance of zinc is controlled by buffer proteins that store and move zinc proteins. Zinc’s balance is changed by the aging process partially due to nutritional deficiency in the older population. The goal is to reduce the risk of the cellular breakdown caused by immunosenescence since it leads to detrimental effects on the immune system and other body functions (Costantini E et al, 2018). 

The elderly are especially vulnerable to zinc deficiency. Some time ago, it was projected that individuals over the age of 65 have a zinc intake 50% below what is recommended (Mocchegiani E et al, 2013). 

Research has demonstrated a beneficial effect of taking zinc supplements, which has been shown to significantly improve immune system functions and lower the risk to harmful compounds (Hemilä H, 2017). 

A randomized, double-blinded, placebo study was performed with elderly who took zinc supplements (Bao B et al, 2010). After zinc was consumed for 6 months, compared to the placebo, there was a reduction in inflammatory markers including C-reactive protein demonstrating the benefits of zinc to the body’s inflammatory response.

Immune cells begin to dysfunction when there are low levels of zinc. Toxic cells begin to increase and phagocytosis (pacman effect) declines unable to capture bad cells and cell death begins to occur (Cabrera AJR, 2014). Zinc homeostasis changes since zinc is not able to be released. 

As with any type of dietary supplement, if one has a medical condition and/or are taking medication, it is best to check with health care provider prior to use. 

In summary, zinc is a key mineral necessary for immune system function. It is involved with enzyme catalytic activity, making protein and DNA, wound healing and cell division. With aging, there is a good chance of zinc deficiency and its critically important to consume zinc in the diet or consider supplements. 

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is not for advertising purposes. 

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