Results of a recent study suggest that older adults may be able to significantly reduce their risk of developing pneumonia by maintaining adequate blood levels of zinc.
For the study, a group of researchers from the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Aging evaluated more than 600 elderly nursing home patients and found that the majority had insufficient serum levels of zinc.
After monitoring the men and women for approximately one year, the researchers found that those with normal levels of the nutrient were 50 percent less likely to be diagnosed with pneumonia than participants with low concentrations.
If patients with sufficient zinc levels did develop the lung condition they spent fewer days on antibiotics compared to those with poor concentrations.
Furthermore, the mortality rate from all causes was 39 percent lower for participants who had sufficient zinc levels at the beginning of the study.
While the researchers believe that zinc can strengthen the immune system, they noted that the findings need to be confirmed in a clinical trial before concluding that the nutrient can help stave off pneumonia.
Previous studies have linked zinc deficiency to liver cirrhosis, poor memory and vision problems.