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Nutr Rev. 2010 Jan;68(1):30-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00253.x.

Low zinc status: a new risk factor for pneumonia in the elderly?

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Nutritional Immunology Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, the Nutrition/Infection Unit, Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Low zinc status may be a risk factor for pneumonia in the elderly. This special article reviews the magnitude of the problem of pneumonia (its prevalence, morbidity, and mortality) in the elderly, pneumonia's etiology, and the dysregulation of the immune system associated with increasing age. In addition, recent evidence from the literature is presented demonstrating that low zinc status (commonly reported in the elderly) impairs immune function, decreases resistance to pathogens, and is associated with increased incidence and duration of pneumonia, increased use and duration of antimicrobial treatment, and increased overall mortality in the elderly. Inadequate stores of zinc might, therefore, be a risk factor for pneumonia in the elderly. Randomized, double-blind, controlled studies are needed to determine the efficacy of zinc supplementation as a potential low-cost intervention to reduce morbidity and mortality due to pneumonia in this vulnerable population.

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