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#Allergy and Immunology
Zinc is vital for several cellular functions, including immunity. Several studies have explored zinc supplementation in an attempt to affect the outcome of various diseases.
An article published in the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care aimed to either support immunity by zinc administration or to correct zinc dependent immune functions in zinc deficient individuals.
The review presented the findings of zinc supplementation in various diseases. Zinc supplementation was shown to have beneficial response in diarrhea among children, chronic hepatitis C, shigellosis, leprosy, tuberculosis, pneumonia, acute lower respiratory tract infection, common cold and leishmaniasis. Zinc supplementation decreased incidences of infections in the elderly, in patients with sickle cell disease (SCD) and decreasing incidences of respiratory tract infections in children. Zinc supplementation led to prevention of blindness in 25% of the elderly individuals with dry type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Zinc supplementation effectively decreased oxidative stress and generation of inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and (interleukin) IL-1beta in elderly individuals and patients with SCD.
The authors summarized that zinc supplementation has been successfully used as a therapeutic and preventive agent for many conditions. Zinc acts as an intracellular signal molecule for immune cells.
Source: Prasad AS. Zinc: role in immunity, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009 Nov;12(6):646-52.