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Should I take zinc?
Feb 18, 2011

I was just reading in the paper that zinc has been proven to make colds last shorter. Is Zinc good for immune system of poz people?

Response from Mr. Vergel

A report this week in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews indicates that administering zinc within 24 hours of onset of the common cold could reduce severity of symptoms and the cold's duration- the sticking point being that exact zinc dosage has not yet been determined.

The review included the results of 15 separate trials, spanning more than 1,000 participants. After a week, patients treated with zinc were less than half as likely to still be suffering symptoms.

Caution: in 2009, a nasal zinc remedy for colds, Zicam, was recalled after being linked to anosmia- the loss of the sense of smell.

Zinc is involved in more than 300 of the body's different metabolic enzymes and is also a large factor in both immune function and hormone function. It is essential for the immune system, and zinc deficiency affects multiple aspects of immunity. There are smilarities in the immunological changes during aging and zinc deficiency, including a reduction in the activity of the thymus and thymic hormones, a shift of the T helper cell balance toward T helper type 2 cells, decreased response to vaccination, and impaired functions of immune cells. Many studies confirm a decline of zinc levels with age. Most of these studies do not classify the majority of elderly as zinc deficient, but even marginal zinc deprivation can affect immune function.

Consequently, oral zinc supplementation demonstrates the potential to improve immunity and efficiently downregulates chronic inflammatory responses in the elderly, and hopefully in HIV positives. Studies indicate that a wide prevalence of marginal zinc deficiency in elderly people may contribute to immunosenescence (aging of the immune system, also present in HIV disease).

The role of zinc in HIV has been been investigated in the past. A study published in 2001 showed that low blood levels of zinc predicted progression to AIDS independently of baseline CD4+ lymphocyte level, age, and calorie-adjusted dietary intakes of this nutrient. Another study done in Africa showed that zinc supplementation of HIV-infected children does not result in an increase in plasma HIV-1 viral load and could reduce morbidity caused by diarrhea.

Zinc is also very important for the production of testosterone since it prevents testosterone from being converted into estrogen (the female hormone) by making the enzyme aromatase not work. Zinc has also shown to help to produce healthier sperm and higher sperm counts. Additionally, adequate zinc levels allow for adequate levels of luteinizing and follicle-stimulating hormones, which are the hormones that tell your body to increase testosterone production.

Since zinc competes with copper for uptake from the gastrointestinal tract, over-supplementation may lead to low copper levels, which can have deleterious effects on the cardiovascular system.

Zinc is often found in foods containing high amounts of protein, like meat or nuts and seeds. Foods high in zinc include oysters (a natural aphrodisiac), beef, liver, crab, seafood, poultry, nuts and seeds, salmon, brown rice, cheese, pine nuts, beans, turkey, milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese or you can supplement with at 50 mg of zinc a day, plus 3 mg of copper to keep a healthy balance between these two micronutrients. There are commercially available supplements that contain this ratio.

I take the Jarrow product called Zinc Balance. Each capsule has 15 mg of zinc and 1 mg of copper. I take one twice a day.


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