Objective: Inadequate intakes of micronutrients in elderly negatively affect the nutritional status. Zinc is an essential micronutrient in the elderly, especially in relation to its impact on immune function, bone mass, cognitive function and oxidative stress. However, data are lacking on zinc intake and status during normal ageing. In this study, we evaluate the intake and status of zinc in late middle-aged and older free-living subjects.
Design: Dietary zinc intake and zinc status in 188 middle-aged subjects from Clermont-Ferrand (Fr) and Coleraine (UK), and in 199 older subjects from Grenoble (Fr) and Roma (It) were assessed at the entry in the ZENITH study.
Results: In relation to the zinc RDA for people older than 55 y, zinc intakes in most of the middle-aged and older subjects (more than 96%) in the present study were adequate. Older people had significantly lower (P < 0.01) energy intakes as compared to middle-aged. Zinc intake expressed per MJ was also significantly (P < 0.01) higher in older people compared to middle-aged. Erythrocyte and urinary zinc concentrations were significantly (P < 0.001) higher in middle-aged subjects compared to older ones. The prevalence of biological Zn deficiency in free-living ageing European people was low (<5%).
Conclusion: The results of the present study showed a relatively low prevalence of zinc deficiencies in healthy free-living late middle-age and older subjects. These results should be useful for health professionals to have reference data on zinc intake and status for a healthy ageing.