Heart disease, cancer and diabetes could all be worse in those who are deficient in zinc, say researchers from Oregon State University.
Older people are at greater risk of being zinc-deficient, say the researchers; around 40 per cent of over-65s are deficient, and this is partly down to the fact that their bodies are less able to absorb the micronutrient. Deficiency affects around 12 per cent of the general population.
Aside from supplements, zinc is found in meat and shellfish, and especially in oysters, which are high in zinc. The recommended daily intake is 8 milligrams for women and 11 for men, although the current safe upper limit is 40 milligrams. Our zinc levels need to be constantly topped up as the body seems unable to store the nutrient.
In a laboratory experiment with mice, the researchers found a direct link between zinc and inflammation. A zinc deficiency seemed to lead to an increased inflammatory response in cells. "When you take away zinc, the cells that control inflammation appear to activate and respond differently," said lead researcher Emily Ho.
(Source: Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 2015; doi: 10.1002/,mfr.201400761)