Background: Zinc is essential for the regulation of immune response. T cell function declines with age. Zinc supplementation has the potential to improve the serum zinc concentrations and immunity of nursing home elderly with a low serum zinc concentration.
Objective: We aimed to determine the effect of supplementation with 30 mg Zn/d for 3 mo on serum zinc concentrations of zinc-deficient nursing home elderly.
Design: This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Of 53 nursing home elderly (aged ≥65 y) who met eligibility criteria, 58% had a low serum zinc concentration (serum zinc <70 μg/dL); these 31 were randomly assigned to zinc (30 mg Zn/d) (n = 16) or placebo (5 mg Zn/d) (n = 15) groups. The primary outcome measure was change in serum zinc concentrations between baseline and month 3. We also explored the effects of supplementation on immune response.
Results: Baseline characteristics were similar in the 2 groups. The difference in the mean change in serum zinc was significantly higher, by 16%, in the zinc group than in the placebo group (P = 0.007) when baseline zinc concentrations were controlled for. In addition, controlling for baseline C-reactive protein, copper, or albumin did not change the results. However, supplementation of participants with ≤60 μg serum Zn/dL failed to increase their serum zinc to ≥70 μg/dL. Zinc supplementation also significantly increased anti-CD3/CD28 and phytohemagglutinin-stimulated T cell proliferation, and the number of peripheral T cells (P < 0.05). When proliferation was expressed per number of T cells, the significant differences between groups were lost, suggesting that the zinc-induced enhancement of T cell proliferation was mainly due to an increase in the number of T cells.
Conclusions: Zinc supplementation at 30 mg/d for 3 mo is effective in increasing serum zinc concentrations in nursing home elderly; however, not all zinc-deficient elderly reached adequate concentrations. The increase in serum zinc concentration was associated with the enhancement of T cell function mainly because of an increase in the number of T cells.
Keywords: T cell proliferation; nursing home elderly; serum zinc concentration; zinc gluconate; zinc supplementation.
© 2016 American Society for Nutrition.