Scientists have discovered that normal blood zinc concentrations cuts the risk of pneumonia in elders by half.
The study was led by Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University in Boston, Mass.
The team found low serum (blood) zinc concentrations in the study participants at baseline and after one year of follow-up. All participants had been supplemented with half of the recommended dietary allowance of essential vitamins and minerals, including zinc, during the trial.
Normal zinc status patients were not only at a reduced the risk of developing pneumonia, but also resulted in fewer new prescriptions for antibiotics, a shorter duration of pneumonia, and fewer days of antibiotic use compared with residents who had low zinc levels.
In addition, mortality was lower in those with adequate blood zinc levels.
Still, the authors note that controlled clinical trials are needed to test the efficacy of zinc supplementation as a low-cost intervention to reduce mortality due to pneumonia among vulnerable populations who already have low zinc levels.