Although the role of zinc in fighting infections has long been known, new research has uncovered some of the mechanisms by which it boosts the immune system.
Researchers from the Center for Nutritional Sciences at the University of Florida conducted a test in healthy volunteers divided into a group which took nutritional supplements containing zinc and a group which took a placebo pill.
The researchers took samples of the T cells from the blood of the participants and simulated infection in laboratory conditions. Their results indicated that T cells taken from the zinc-supplemented group had higher activation than those from the placebo group.
T cells are responsible for destroying viruses and bacteria.
“[S]tudies like this help shed light on how zinc may enhance the ability of our immune systems to fight off foreign invaders,” says Dr John Wherry, deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology which published the results.
He adds they open the way for new treatments of infections that may have become resistant to traditional antibiotics.