Many have heard that zinc can stop a cold in its tracks, and new research from Ohio State University tells us why; it turns out that zinc gently taps the brakes on immune responses, slowing them down and preventing inflammation from spiraling out of control.
The researchers’ work with human cells and animals found that zinc serves to balance the immune response within the cells so that the consequences of insufficient zinc at the time of an infection include excessive inflammation. Of all the zinc contained in our bodies, only about 10 percent of it is readily accessible to help fight off an infection, notes Daren Knoell, professor of pharmacy and internal medicine and lead author of the study, published in Cell Reports.
The research team suggests that proper zinc balance is especially important in battling serious and potentially deadly infections. Zinc deficiency affects about 2 billion people worldwide, including an estimated 40 percent of the U.S. elderly.