Zinc deficiency may be linked to chronic diseases that involve inflammation, new research has shown. Findings from the study are published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research

Zinc is a micronutrient required for growth and development, neurologic function, and immunity. When zinc levels are low, the cells responsible for inflammation appear to activate and respond differently, study authors from the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences reported. In the elderly population (≥65 years old), nearly 40% do not consume enough zinc. 

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In the study, researchers used aged mouse models and an in vitro cell culture system to create a zinc deficiency which induced a proinflammatory response. The deficiency led to an upregulation of cell activation markers ICAM1, MHC class II, and CD86 in THP1 cells, as well as increased IL1B and IL6 responses. The team also compared zinc levels in young and old mice. The older mice showed low zinc levels that were associated with increased chronic inflammation and decreased IL-6 methylation; decreased IL-6 methylation was also found in immune cells from elderly humans. 

Study data suggest that possible interactions between zinc levels and immune dysregulation can contribute to increased inflammation that occurs with age. 

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