Zinc Deficiency Linked to Chronic Inflammation in Study

foods high in zincResearchers at Oregon State University found a link between chronic inflammation, immune dysfunction and zinc deficiency. 1 Inflammation is involved in cardiovascular disease and other diseases.

They introduced an inflammation-provoking substance to a human white blood cell culture. This resulted in an increase in the responses of the cytokines interleukin 1beta and interleukin 6.

The researchers conducted a related experiment on aged mice with zinc deficiency. The results were similar: an increase in interleukin 6 gene expression.

Zinc deficiency can be detected in a blood test or a taste test. Nutritional intake is another way to measure it. Approximately 12% of U.S. residents fail to get enough zinc. For seniors age 65 and older, the number is a whopping 40%.2 Seniors tend to ingest less zinc, and are less efficient at absorbing it.

“Zinc deficiency induced inflammatory response in part by eliciting aberrant immune cell activation and altered promoter methylation. Our results suggested potential interactions between zinc status, epigenetics, and immune function, and how their dysregulation could contribute to chronic inflammation,” the study concluded.

Zinc is a metal that is needed in very small amounts for human health. The Recommended Daily Allowance for males aged 14 and up is 11 mg/day; non-pregnant/non-lactating women 19 and older, 8 mg/day. Food sources of this mineral include seafood, beef, lamb, wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, and many types of nuts. Some individuals use zinc for eye diseases such as night blindness (with Vitamin A). Zinc gluconate is the safest supplement because it is low in toxic cadmium.

  1. “Zinc deficiency enhanced inflammatory response by increasing immune cell activation and inducing IL6 promoter demethylation.” Carmen P. Wong, Nicole A. Rinaldi and Emily Ho. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. Article first published online: 17 MAR 2015 DOI: 10.1002/mnfr.201400761
  2. Ibid.