Most people are aware of a connection between zinc and their immune systems, but might not understand why this mineral is so important – and why a deficiency of zinc can be a serious problem.
Without proper levels of zinc, you leave your immune cells with lowered defensive capabilities. Instead maintaining strength, they are more easily depleted by inflammation and aren’t able to fight bacteria or viruses, because they are undernourished.
For instance, even the very mechanical aspects of your defenses – phagocytes that kill ingested bacteria by gobbling them up, for instance – don’t have the nutrient fuel to fulfill their purpose. And that is just one aspect of zinc’s role. It also helps activate immune cells, bring lymphocytes (white blood cells) to full strength, and communication between both the innate and adaptive responses.
Getting zinc into your daily regimen is crucial. An excellent supplemental form of zinc is chelated to the amino acid glycine. This amino acid helps shepherd minerals through the intestinal wall, allowing them to be readily used by the body.
Maares M, Haase H. Zinc and immunity: An essential interrelation. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2016 Dec 1;611:58-65. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2016.03.022. Epub 2016 Mar 26. PMID: 27021581.
The significance of the essential trace element zinc for immune function has been known for several decades. Zinc deficiency affects immune cells, resulting in altered host defense, increased risk of inflammation, and even death. The micronutrient zinc is important for maintenance and development of immune cells of both the innate and adaptive immune system. A disrupted zinc homeostasis affects these cells, leading to impaired formation, activation, and maturation of lymphocytes, disturbed intercellular communication via cytokines, and weakened innate host defense via phagocytosis and oxidative burst. This review outlines the connection between zinc and immunity by giving a survey on the major roles of zinc in immune cell function, and their potential consequences in vivo.
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