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

Correlation between zinc status and immune function in the elderly

  • Hajo Haase
  • Eugenio Mocchegiani
  • Lothar RinkEmail author
Review Article


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.


Immunosenescence Zinc deficiency Zinc supplementation 



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


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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

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