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Zinc May Boost Immune T Cells in Mature Adults

Immune T cells are important for almost all of our adaptive immune responses, and T cell function declines as we age. A recent study suggests that zinc supplements may help boost the function of immune T cells in people who live in assisted living facilities.


Participants in the study included 53 people who lived in nursing homes. 58% of the participants (or 31 people) had low zinc levels, which was defined as less than 70 micrograms per dL. Those 31 people were assigned to take either 30 mg of zinc or a placebo daily for three months.


At the conclusion of the study, the researchers found that average serum zinc concentration increased by 16% in the zinc group. They also noted a correlating increase in the number of T cells in those participants, as well as enhancement of T cell function. However, the 30 mg dose was not enough to raise serum levels above 70 ug/dL in people whose initial levels were below 60 ug/dL.


Researchers from Tufts University, Boston University School of Medicine, Hebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical School conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on January 27, 2016, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


Zinc is an essential mineral that has been linked to maintaining a healthy immune system, healing wounds, helping with growth, supporting the reproductive system, and improved eye health.


The human body cannot make zinc, so it’s important to get it from food and supplement sources. Zinc can be found in many foods, including oysters, beef, crab, fortified cereals, lobster, beans, yogurt, nuts, milk, chicken, cheese, and oatmeal. You can also consume zinc in a supplement form, but be careful not to take too much. Intakes of greater than 150 mg per day have been associated with negative side effects, such as a weakened immune system.

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