Food containing Zinc
Zinc joins the ranks of other nutrients whose deficiencies are contributing to stepped up aging and disease.

A new report from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences shows that absorption of the mineral zinc declines with age, leading to deficiencies which are associated with aging and disease.

The study which was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health was published in the latest issue of Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

The report also points out that zinc requirements appear to rise with age, while the ability to absorb it declines.

Dietary zinc is found in animal proteins, grains and vegetables. However, zinc absorption from grains and vegetables is hindered, leaving vegetarians even more vulnerable to deficiency. 

As with other nutrients, researchers found that zinc deficiencies contributed to increased inflammation in animals as they aged. When the animals were given zinc supplements amounting to 10 times the required amount, zinc levels rose to normal and the inflammation was reversed.

Researchers now estimate that about 40% of Americans are currently zinc deficient.

Previous studies have shown that zinc deficiencies increase oxidative stress which leads to DNA damage. Such damage is more difficult to repair in aging bodies which is the primary reason for increased disease rates, especially cancer. Medical screenings for zinc deficiencies are rarely done, causing the problem to be widely missed.

Researchers point out that the best approach to address zinc deficiencies would be through supplementation. They recommend that older people take at least the full RDA sanctioned dose of 11 milligrams a day for men and 8 milligrams for women. People should avoid taking more than 40 milligrams of zinc per day because of adverse effects which include the decreased absorption of iron and copper.

Speaking of their findings, lead scientist, Emily Ho said:

"The elderly are the fastest growing population in the U.S. and are highly vulnerable to zinc deficiency. They don't consume enough of this nutrient and don't absorb it very well."

"We've previously shown in both animal and human studies that zinc deficiency can cause DNA damage, and this new work shows how it can help lead to systemic inflammation," concludes Ho.