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The Immunity-Boosting Power of Zinc

Given the current pandemic, I’ve been reviewing natural supplements that support strong immune system function.

One of the most effective is zinc.

It’s a mineral and an essential nutrient. That means your body can’t produce or store it. So it should be a part of your daily diet.

Among other important functions such as wound healing, zinc is critical for the development and proper function of immune cells.[1]

Modern medicine has yet to find a cure for the common cold (that’s a form of coronavirus, incidentally). But a 1983 study showed that zinc lozenges might be the closest thing to it.

The mineral was found to shorten the length and ease the severity of colds. Ever since, zinc has been a wildly popular cold remedy.[2]

Science has continued to find evidence of the mineral’s importance to immune function.

  • Cold recovery. Substantial research backs up the 1983 study. Researchers from the University of Helsinki conducted a meta-analysis of three randomized controlled trials. They found that 70% of patients who took zinc acetate lozenges had completely recovered from their colds after five days compared to only 27% of patients who took a placebo.[3]
  • Infection resistance. A review published in the journal Immunity & Ageing found zinc is especially beneficial to older people. It significantly promotes immune response and reduces infections.[4]These findings were backed up by another study published in Advances in Nutrition. Researchers found that 45 mg of zinc per day cut infection rates in seniors by almost 66%.[5]
  • Lower pneumonia and flu risk. A study from the Nutritional Immunology Laboratory at Tufts University found that low zinc levels (which are common in seniors) are associated with increased incidence of pneumonia.[6]A review published in the journal Pathobiology of Aging & Age-Related Diseases looked at older people who take zinc supplements. They had enhanced responses to flu vaccines and reduced risk of pneumonia. As a bonus, it also improved mental performance.[7]
  • Restores immune cells. Researchers from Michigan State University looked at a variety of immunodeficiency diseases including HIV. They found that zinc supplementation restores immune functions such as lymphocyte production and natural killer cell activity. And it boosts infection resistance.[8]

Good dietary sources of zinc include seafood, dairy, and red meat. Some vegetables contain zinc, but plants aren’t the best source. They contain phytic acid, a compound that hinders zinc absorption.[9]

Zinc supplements are available from health food stores and online retailers. The U.S. recommended daily intake is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. But studies tend to use doses in the range of 45 to 90 mg per day.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki study cited above emphasized that none of the studies they looked at found any serious side effects from zinc. They noted that other researchers have found few adverse effects even with long-term daily dosages as high as 150 mg.

Now more than ever, it’s critical to keep your immune system in top condition. Zinc is a great way to do it.

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