Zinc for Immunity During The Coronavirus – Invite Health Podcast, Episode 42
Invite Health Podcast, Episode hosted by Jerry Hickey. Ph
It’s March – it should be a bit past the peak flu and virus season now, but the Coronavirus has changed all of that so I’d like to talk to you today about the mineral Zinc; it can be a quick fix for your immune system for many people.
The Importance of Zinc Today
If you’re low on zinc – deviating below the normal healthy level on your blood test – it reduces the number of immune cells you make; these are the cells that fight the infection.
Plus, to make matters worse, whatever lowered number of immune cells you do make, commonly generically called white blood cells, they’re not going to work very well for fighting off viruses and bacteria and this will increase your risk of developing an infection. This is according to a report from the the University of California Davis.
The UC Davis medical authorities also say that taking a Zinc supplement daily, reduces your rate of infection. This is extremely important – that the zinc, through it’s anti-inflammatory activity, that comes from Zinc’s powerful and well documented antioxidant activity, may help protect your tissues form the damage generated by the infection. It’s not unusual for a viral infection to damage your lungs through the generation of free radicals if the virus can get in there.
Zinc has many brilliantly good effects on the body;
- Needed to release insulin to balance blood sugar
- Needed to make thyroid hormone
- Needed to convert collagen protein into bone
- Needed for vision and especially in the elderly to help prevent eye disease and blindness
- Needed for helping to prevent heart disease and plaque accumulation in your arteries
- “ for skin, hair and nails,
- Sense of taste and smell
- Protects the brain as SOD 1; when this runs low in your late 50’s and 60’s your brain is in trouble
And plaque can start to accumulate in your brain:
- Is needed for the function of vitamin D
- Is needed to convert Vitamin A into retinal for night vision and for releasing Vitamin A from the liver for healing and immunity
Higher doses of Zinc, well above the upper recommended level have proven to be safe and to safely shorten the length of those symptoms of the common cold by a good percentage – a third in general, according to a review of studies published by the Royal Society of Medicine.
Human Clinical Trials on Zinc
Many human clinical trials of the young, the elderly, and those in between show that Zinc is needed for your immune system and taking a bit extra during cough and cold season is very helpful for reducing the duration of symptoms and for protecting you from an infection in the first place.
In a review of studies published in the Journal BMC Family Practice of Zinc lozenges and the symptoms of a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract, Zinc reduced the length of suffering with
- A cough by 46%
- Sore throat by 33%
- Stuffed nose by 37%,
- Runny nose by 34%
- And muscle soreness by 54%
There were some caveats to this review of clinical trials;
- First 24 hours
- For Lozenges you needed to have 80 to 90 mg of zinc a day
- In my opinion you are better off taking some zinc daily so there is always enough zinc in your system to protect you from all types of viruses
This is important; there are other viruses out there including two additional corona viruses that are zoonotic but have not infected people yet, you want a well-functioning immune system.
So how does Zinc work?
Zinc is required to make the cells that kill infections, known as neutrophils and macrophages, and the cells that single out specific infections or that control the immune system; your B cells which are your antibodies that recognize specific viruses and bacteria, and your all important T Cells that guide the immune system, kill infections, and turn off the immune system when the infection is over.
Viruses use proteins on the outside of their viral coating to infect us. Zinc has the ability to complex with these proteins and the more zinc in your cell the better it works. This reduces the ability of a virus to infect you. So a deficiency of Zinc increases dysfunction of the immune system and increases your susceptibility to infection.
Children and adolescents are often low in zinc but who is typically low in Zinc focusing solely on adults;
- Older adults (65 years and older) for a number of reasons; a decreased appetite, a narrowed variety of foods, and a decreased ability to absorb zinc from foods not to mention that many drugs reduce the amount of zinc in the body and the elderly are often on many drugs;
- Examples of commonly used drugs that lower zinc include
- ACE inhibitors such as lisinopril and diuretics (aka water pills) used to treat high blood pressure
- Estrogen replacement
- Proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole and H2 inhibitors such as cimetidine used for…..
- Steroids such as prednisone
- Laxatives, antacids, and even aspirin all lower your level of zinc
- Vegetarians: The requirement for dietary zinc may be as much as 50% greater for vegetarians whose major food staples are grains and legumes, because high levels of phytate in these foods reduce the absorption of zinc
- Pregnant and lactating (breast-feeding) women, especially adolescents
- Individuals with severe or persistent diarrhea
- Individuals with mal-absorption syndromes, including celiac disease and short bowel syndrome
- Individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Alcoholics have increased urinary zinc excretion and low liver zinc levels
- Individuals with chronic renal disease
- Individuals with sickle cell anemia
For the elderly and HIV positive individuals Zinc supplementation is a must; HIV-infected individuals are particularly susceptible to zinc deficiency. In HIV-infected patients, low serum zinc concentrations are connected with disease progression and increased mortality.
In one study conducted in AIDS patients, 45 mg/day of zinc for one month resulted in a decreased incidence of opportunistic infections compared to placebo.
In a placebo-controlled study of 231 HIV-positive adults who were initially low in zinc, doctors found that supplementing with ZINC, 12 mg/day for women and 15 mg/day for men, for 18 months reduced the incidence of immunological failure (defined by a low CD4+ count, a type of T cell) by 76% and the rate of diarrhea by 60%.
A systematic review of three randomized controlled trials concluded that zinc supplementation was safe and efficacious in reducing opportunistic infections in HIV-positive adults. Low zinc in the elderly is fairly common and adds to the age-related decline in immune function.
In a study of nursing home residents, a low level of zinc in the blood serum lead to a higher rate of pneumonia and pneumonia-related mortality, and in fact increased all-cause mortality.
Studies examining the effects of zinc supplementation on immune function in middle-aged and elderly adults show that zinc supplementation improves immune function. For instance, a randomized, placebo-controlled study in people over 65 years of age found that zinc supplementation (25 mg/day) for three months increased blood concentrations of helper T-cells and cytotoxic T-cells; these are virus killers.
Additionally, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in 101 older adults (aged 50-70 years) with normal blood zinc concentrations showed that zinc supplementation at 15 mg/day for six months improved the helper T-cells/cytotoxic T-cells ratio, which tends to decline with age and when low is a predictor of poor survival.
A recent study examined the effect of daily supplementation with a supplement that included 5 mg or 30 mg of zinc taken for three months in institutionalized elderly participants (mean age, >80 years) with an initially low serum concentration of zinc. Zinc status was improved with the 30 mg/day dose — but not with 5 mg/day — yet the most zinc-deficient individuals failed to achieve normal serum zinc concentrations within the intervention period; they needed more than 30mg a day. The number of circulating T-cells was also significantly increased in those who took the micronutrient supplement with the higher versus low dose of zinc (93).
The high prevalence of zinc deficiency among institutionalized elderly adults should be addressed and would likely improve the performance of their immune system.
Currently my wife and I are taking an additional 30mg of zinc a day; this is in addition to the 15mg we are already getting in our multiple vitamin. This is plenty because it has had time to build up in our systems. I choose Zinc Picolinate, but lozenges are also a great choice. If you are first developing symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection use a lozenge and take about 30mg 3 times a day (no more than that).
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