Zinc Immunity

Published: August 31 2009


Before you put down that hamburger, remember that red meat’s a good source of zinc. University of Florida researchers have discovered a key to zinc’s well-known immune-boosting power. It ramps up white blood cells known as T-cells, which trigger a key immune protein called gamma interferon.

Robert Cousins/UF nutrition researcher: “We found that the production and release of this gamma interferon is increased when the blood cells are from people that have been given extra zinc.”

Immune systems could get a test this fall from what could be a severe flu season. T-cells remain one of the body’s top lines of defense, as they help identify and destroy bacteria. Results suggest that more zinc means more active T-cells.

Robert Cousins/UF nutrition researcher: “By analogy, the idea would be that if you were at least at adequate zinc status from your daily diet, your t-cells would be functioning at their maximum capacity.”

Experts say maintaining a good diet, including a good source of zinc, helps your body ward off infection.