Zinc boosts immunity in seniors in nursing homes, study finds

A zinc supplement may help improve immunity for older adults living in nursing homes, according to a new study.

Researchers at Tufts University gave one group of nursing home residents zinc supplements for three months, while another group received a placebo. The residents, all over age 65, ranged from being moderately to very zinc-deficient; zinc deficiency is known to impair immunity, especially in older adults.

The group of residents who received the zinc supplement had an increase in serum zinc concentrations, as well as an increase in number and effectiveness of immunity-boosting T-cells. The zinc supplements improved the T-cells' ability to respond to stimuli that mimicked infection, researchers said.

The study's findings suggest that “ensuring adequate zinc consumption by older adults could have a significant impact on reducing the incidence of and morbidity from infection,” wrote lead research Simin Nikbin Meydani, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Results of the study appear online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.