Although zinc deficiency is known to depress immune function, the widely used zinc gluconate lozenges and chews often used to prevent or treat the common cold have not yet been found to be an effective treatment in studies and trials in those with normal zinc status.
Zinc deficiency was first discovered in adolescent boys suffering from mild anemia, short stature and delayed sexual maturation. Their diets were high in unrefined cereals and unleavened breads, both high in phytate, which competes with zinc for absorption.
Once zinc deficiencies were corrected, the boys grew as much as 5 inches per year. Infant and children’s foods such as ready to eat cereals are now fortified with zinc.
Decreased risk of age-related chronic disease
A study from researchers at Oregon State University have found that improving zinc status through diet and supplementation may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases.
Using cell cultures, and a mouse model, researchers were able to show that age-related reductions in zinc status may lead to impaired immune system function and systemic inflammation, both contributing factors to chronic diseases.
Adults 60 years of age and older from food-insufficient households have a significantly higher risk of zinc deficiency, reporting an intake of less than 50% of the Recommended Daily Intake for zinc compared with adults from food-sufficient households.2
Fighting age-related macular degeneration (AMD):
AMD is an age-related disease that gradually deteriorates the part of the eye responsible for clear central vision, significantly decreasing reading ability and facial recognition. Zinc supplementation has been shown to the decrease risk of developing more advanced AMD by 25% and lower risk of central vision loss by 19%.
Zinc plays a role in maintaining skin integrity and structure. Patients experiencing chronic wound or ulcers often have deficient zinc metabolism and lower serum zinc levels. Those with low levels should be treated with increased zinc. However, research has not consistently shown that use of zinc sulfate in patients with chronic wounds or ulcers is effective at improving healing rate.
Several studies and trials have linked poor zinc status with low sperm quality. For example, one study in the Netherlands found that subjects had a higher sperm count after zinc sulfate and folic acid supplementation.3
In another study, researchers concluded that poor zinc intake may be a risk factor for low quality of sperm and maleinfertility.