Biogerontology

, Volume 7, Issue 5–6, pp 421–428 | Cite as

Correlation between zinc status and immune function in the elderly

Review Article

Abstract

Zinc is essential for the immune system and elderly people have an increased probability for zinc deficiency, documented by a decline of serum or plasma zinc levels with age. Although most healthy elderly are not classified as clinically zinc deficient, even marginal zinc deprivation can affect immune function. Several striking similarities in the immunological changes during aging and zinc deficiency, including a reduction in the activity of the thymus and thymic hormones, a shift of the T helper cell balance towards TH2, decreased response to vaccination, and impaired functions of innae immune cells indicate that a wide prevalence of marginal zinc deficiency in elderly people may contribute to immunosenescence. Studies with oral zinc supplementation show the potential to improve the immune response of elderly people by restoration of the zinc levels, showing that balancing the zinc status may be a way to healthy aging. This review summarizes the current literature about zinc supplementation in the elderly and thereby defines the rationale for the immunological part of the ZINCAGE project.

Keywords

Immunosenescence Zinc deficiency Zinc supplementation 

Notes

Acknowledgement

This work was supported in part by the EU project ZINCAGE (Food-CT-2003-506850).

References

  1. Beck FW, Prasad AS, Kaplan J, Fitzgerald JT, Brewer GJ (1997) Changes in cytokine production and T cell subpopulations in experimentally induced zinc-deficient humans. Am J Physiol 272:E1002–E1007PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Bogden JD, Oleske JM, Lavenhar MA, Munves EM, Kemp FW, Bruening KS, Holding KJ, Denny TN, Guarino MA, Holland BK (1990) Effects of one year of supplementation with zinc and other micronutrients on cellular immunity in the elderly. J Am Coll Nutr 9:214–225PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bogden JD, Oleske JM, Munves EM, Lavenhar MA, Bruening KS, Kemp FW, Holding KJ, Denny TN, Louria DB (1987) Zinc and immunocompetence in the elderly: baseline data on zinc nutriture and immunity in unsupplemented subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 46:101–109PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Boukaiba N, Flament C, Acher S, Chappuis P, Piau A, Fusselier M, Dardenne M, Lemonnier D (1993) A physiological amount of zinc supplementation: effects on nutritional, lipid, and thymic status in an elderly population. Am J Clin Nutr 57:566–572PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Briefel RR, Bialostosky K, Kennedy-Stephenson J, McDowell MA, Ervin RB, Wright JD (2000) Zinc intake of the U.S. population: findings from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994. J Nutr 130:1367S–1373SPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Bunker VW, Hinks LJ, Lawson MS, Clayton BE (1984) Assessment of zinc and copper status of healthy elderly people using metabolic balance studies and measurement of leucocyte concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 40:1096–1102PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Bunker VW, Hinks LJ, Stansfield MF, Lawson MS, Clayton BE (1987) Metabolic balance studies for zinc and copper in housebound elderly people and the relationship between zinc balance and leukocyte zinc concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr 46:353–359PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Cakman I, Rohwer J, Schutz RM, Kirchner H, Rink L (1996) Dysregulation between TH1 and TH2 T cell subpopulations in the elderly. Mech Ageing Dev 87:197–209PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cossack ZT (1989) T-lymphocyte dysfunction in the elderly associated with zinc deficiency and subnormal nucleoside phosphorylase activity: effect of zinc supplementation. Eur J Cancer Clin Oncol 25:973–976PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duchateau J, Delepesse G, Vrijens R, Collet H (1981) Beneficial effects of oral zinc supplementation on the immune response of old people. Am J Med 70:1001–1004PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fabris N, Mocchegiani E, Amadio L, Zannotti M, Licastro F, Franceschi C (1984) Thymic hormone deficiency in normal ageing and Down’s syndrome: is there a primary failure of the thymus? Lancet 1:983–986PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fortes C, Forastiere F, Agabiti N, Fano V, Pacifici R, Virgili F, Piras G, Guidi L, Bartoloni C, Tricerri A, Zuccaro P, Ebrahim S, Perucci CA (1998) The effect of zinc and vitamin A supplementation on immune response in an older population. J Am Geriatr Soc 46:19–26PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Girodon F, Blache D, Monget AL, Lombart M, Brunet-Lecompte P, Arnaud J, Richard MJ, Galan P (1997) Effect of a two-year supplementation with low doses of antioxidant vitamins and/or minerals in elderly subjects on levels of nutrients and antioxidant defense parameters. J Am Coll Nutr 16:357–365PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Girodon F, Galan P, Monget AL, Boutron-Ruault MC, Brunet-Lecomte P, Preziosi P, Arnaud J, Manuguerra JC, Herchberg S (1999) Impact of trace elements and vitamin supplementation on immunity and infections in institutionalized elderly patients: a randomized controlled trial. MIN. VIT. AOX. geriatric network. Arch Intern Med 159:748–754 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Goode HF, Penn ND, Kelleher J, Walker BE (1991) Evidence of cellular zinc depletion in hospitalized but not in healthy elderly subjects. Age Ageing 20:345–348PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Hotz C, Peerson JM, Brown KH (2003) Suggested lower cutoffs of serum zinc concentrations for assessing zinc status: reanalysis of the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data (1976–1980). Am J Clin Nutr 78:756–764PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Ibs KH, Gabriel P, Rink L (2003) Zinc and the immune system of elderly. Adv Cell Aging Gerontol 13:243–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Ibs KH, Rink L (2003) Zinc-altered immune function. J Nutr 133:1452S–1456SPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Kaplan J, Hess JW, Prasad AS (1988) Impaired interleukin-2 production in the elderly: association with mild zinc deficiency. J Trace Elem Exp Med 1:3–8Google Scholar
  20. Kreft B, Fischer A, Kruger S, Sack K, Kirchner H, Rink L (2000) The impaired immune response to diphtheria vaccination in elderly chronic hemodialysis patients is related to zinc deficiency. Biogerontology 1:61–66PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lindeman RD, Clark ML, Colmore JP (1971) Influence of age and sex on plasma and red-cell zinc concentrations. J Gerontol 26:358–363PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Maret W, Sandstead HH (2006) Zinc requirements and the risks and benefits of zinc supplementation. J Trace Elem Med Biol 20:3–18PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mocchegiani E, Giacconi R, Muzzioli M, Cipriano C (2000a) Zinc, infections and immunosenescence. Mech Ageing Dev 121:21–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mocchegiani E, Muzzioli M, Giacconi R (2000b) Zinc, metallothioneins, immune responses, survival and ageing. Biogerontology 1:133–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mocchegiani E, Muzzioli M, Giacconi R, Cipriano C, Gasparini N, Franceschi C, Gaetti R, Cavalieri E, Suzuki H (2003) Metallothioneins/PARP-1/IL-6 interplay on natural killer cell activity in elderly: parallelism with nonagenarians and old infected humans. Effect of zinc supply. Mech Ageing Dev 124:459–468PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pepersack T, Rotsaert P, Benoit F, Willems D, Fuss M, Bourdoux P, Duchateau J (2001) Prevalence of zinc deficiency and its clinical relevance among hospitalised elderly. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 33:243–253 PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Prasad AS, Fitzgerald JT, Hess JW, Kaplan J, Pelen F, Dardenne M (1993) Zinc deficiency in elderly patients. Nutrition 9:218–224PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Provinciali M, Montenovo A, Di Stefano G, Colombo M, Daghetta L, Cairati M, Veroni C, Cassino R, Della Torre F, Fabris N (1998) Effect of zinc or zinc plus arginine supplementation on antibody titre and lymphocyte subsets after influenza vaccination in elderly subjects: a randomized controlled trial. Age Ageing 27:715–722PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Ravaglia G, Forti P, Maioli F, Bastagli L, Facchini A, Mariani E, Savarino L, Sassi S, Cucinotta D, Lenaz G, (2000a) Effect of micronutrient status on natural killer cell immune function in healthy free-living subjects aged >/ = 90 y. Am J Clin Nutr 71:590–598Google Scholar
  30. Ravaglia G, Forti P, Maioli F, Nesi B, Pratelli L, Savarino L, Cucinotta D, Cavalli G, (2000b) Blood micronutrient and thyroid hormone concentrations in the oldest-old. J Clin Endocrinol Metabol 85:2260–2265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Senapati A, Jenner G, Thompson RP (1989) Zinc in the elderly. Quart J Med 70:81–87PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Stafford W, Smith RG, Lewis SJ, Henery E, Stephen PJ, Rafferty J, Simpson GK, Bell PC, O’Rorke K (1988) A study of zinc status of elderly institutionalized patients. Age Ageing 17:42–48PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Vallee BL, Falchuk KH (1993) The biochemical basis of zinc physiology. Physiol Rev 73:79–118PubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Wagner PA, Jernigan JA, Bailey LB, Nickens C, Brazzi GA (1983) Zinc nutriture and cell-mediated immunity in the aged. Int J Vit Nutr Res 53:94–101Google Scholar
  35. Wörwag M, Classen HG, Schumacher E (1999) Prevalence of magnesium and zinc deficiencies in nursing home residents in Germany. Magnes Res 12:181–189PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of ImmunologyUniversity Hospital, RWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Immunology Centre (Section: Nutrition, Immunity and Ageing), Research DepartmentItalian National Research Centres on Ageing (INRCA)AnconaItaly

Personalised recommendations