Date: 04 Jul 2009

Zinc increases the effects of essential amino acids-whey protein supplements in frail elderly

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Protein undernutrition is frequent in the elderly. It contributes to the development of osteoporosis, possibly via lower IGF-I. Dietary zinc can influence IGF-I production.


To determine the influence of dietary zinc addition on IGF-I and bone turnover responses to essential amino acids-whey (EAA-W) protein supplements in frail elderly.

Design and setting

A daily oral protein supplement was given to hospitalized patients for 4 weeks. On a randomized, double-blind basis, patients received either an additional 30 mg/day of zinc or control.


Sixty-one hospitalized elderly aged 66.7 to 105.8, with a mini-nutritional assessment score between 17 and 24 were enrolled.


Activities of daily living; dietary intakes; serum IGF-I, IGF-BP3, CrossLaps™, osteocalcin and zinc were measured before and after 1, 2 and 4 weeks of protein supplementation.


Serum IGF-I rapidly increased in both groups. Zinc accelerated this increase with changes of +48.2±14.3 and +22.4±4.7% (p<.05) by 1 week, in the zinc-supplemented and control groups, respectively. Zinc significantly decreased the serum bone resorption marker CrossLaps™ by already 1 week. Activities of daily living improved by +27.0±3.1 and +18.3±4.5% in zinc-supplemented and control groups, respectively.


In the elderly, zinc supplementation accelerated the serum IGF-I response to EAA-W protein by 1 week and decreased a biochemical marker of bone resorption.