Maintaining normal zinc concentrations in the blood may help prevent pneumonia in nursing home residents, a new study shows.

The Study

Researchers at Tufts University looked at 617 people ages 65 and older in 33 nursing homes in the Boston area. All the study participants received daily supplements containing 50% of the recommended dietary allowance of several vitamins and minerals, including zinc, for one year. Blood samples were taken from the residents at the start and conclusion of the one-year study.

Study Findings

Study participants with normal blood zinc concentrations were about 50% less likely to develop pneumonia than those with low concentrations of the mineral.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also found that people with normal zinc concentrations had a 39% lower rate of death from all causes.

More Zinc Benefits

"Not only did people with lower zinc concentrations) have a higher risk of developing pneumonia, when they did become sick, they did not recover as quickly and required a longer course of antibiotics," said corresponding author Simin Nikbin Meydani, PhD, director of the nutritional immunology laboratory at the US Department of Agriculture's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts.

"Zinc is already known to strengthen the immune system. However, there needs to be further investigation of zinc and its effect on pneumonia development and prevention in nursing homes. The next step would be a clinical trial," Dr. Meydani said.

Sources Of Zinc

Red meat, poultry, whole grains, beans, dairy products, and oysters are examples of foods that provide zinc.

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