Chronic inflammation is at the root of many conditions, especially conditions associated with aging, such as osteoarthritis.
Chronic inflammation can wreck havoc in your body, causing pain and loss of mobility, especially in your joints.
Having the right amount of zinc in your body is the key to keeping your immune system healthy and strong and avoiding the negative health impacts that inflammation, especially age-related inflammation, can have.
Zinc deficiency can lead to serious health problems, like immune system dysfunction and systemic inflammation.
Understanding role zinc plays in your body is important for managing your levels of this mineral.
Inflammation, Aging and Zinc Deficiency
According to the World Health Organization, some 31% of individuals globally have a zinc deficiency(1); this deficiency is linked to increased malaria-related deaths in infants, but it is significant for older populations as well.
For individuals who have a genetic predisposition to a dysregulation of the inflammatory/immune response, zinc has a critical role to play in managing the effects of age-related diseases(2), such as arthritis.
“When you take away zinc, the cells that control inflammation appear to activate and respond differently; this causes the cells to promote more inflammation,” says researcher Emily Ho, who is with the Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences(3).
Ho also points out that the recommended daily intake of zinc for adults – 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women – probably should be increased for older adults.
Signs of Zinc Deficiency
Symptoms of zinc deficiency can vary, but includes:
- Impaired immune system function and susceptibility to infections
- Impaired cognitive function
- Weight loss
- Impaired taste and smell
If you are experiencing a combination of these symptoms, you may have a serious zinc deficiency. It’s important to talk to a doctor if you think you’re deficient in zinc. Risk factors for zinc deficiency include an inadequate diet, chronic liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, sickle cell disease, and diabetes.
Managing Your Zinc Levels
Unfortunately, zinc levels are notoriously difficult to track; there is no effective blood test to show if you have a zinc deficiency. Eating foods that are rich in zinc is the only way to be sure that you’re getting enough of this vital mineral.
Meat and shellfish – especially oysters – are particularly high in zinc, but also difficult to digest, especially for older individuals. The older you get, the more difficulty your body has absorbing zinc in an efficient manner – another factor which contributes to zinc deficiency as you age.