Before I begin, I want to make it very clear: this is not medical advice. Consult your physician before starting making any drastic changes to your lifestyle or starting any new supplements…most of the time, a simple phone call will do. Also, it’s important to recognize that no supplement will create any lasting effects on your immune health if your stress levels, sleep, diet, and exercise habits aren’t in check. Those things are always the top priority when it comes to immune health.
During this coronavirus pandemic, immune health is of the utmost importance. Countless foods and supplements are marketed as “immune boosting,” but it’s difficult to decipher which ones actually do anything. So, I want to talk about a supplement that has quite a bit of research to back it up as being beneficial for immune health: zinc. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states, “Mild to moderate degrees of zinc deficiency can impair macrophage and neutrophil functions…” and that these immune impairments “can be corrected with zinc supplementation.” Those who are especially at-risk for zinc deficiency include individuals with gastrointestinal diseases, vegetarians, pregnant and lactating women, and individuals who frequently consume alcohol. This is not to say that these are the only individuals who can benefit from zinc supplementation, though.
A much greater number of people fall into the category of subclinical zinc-deficiency. This indicates someone who has low levels of zinc but cannot be categorized as “zinc deficient” based on published standards. Even marginal zinc deprivations can have an effect on immune function, though. Many studies have shown these marginal deprivations are common in the elderly as zinc levels decline with age as well as individuals who consume high amounts of processed foods as they are missing out on quite a few key nutrients. If you are someone who can identify with any of the categories mentioned above, there is a good chance oral zinc supplementation has the potential to improve immunity, efficiently downregulate chronic inflammatory responses, and decrease the incidence of colds. If you don’t feel comfortable supplementing with zinc on a daily basis though, studies have also shown, if you begin supplementing with zinc at the onset of cold symptoms, you can significantly decrease the duration of those symptoms. Although, it should be noted that this form of supplementation requires a much higher dosage at more frequent intervals than if someone were to supplement on a daily basis. Overall, I feel that zinc supplementation can be very beneficial to the immune health of many people with little drawback.
Fitness Professional, Matt Rucinski
Interested in learning more? Contact Matt or one of our other great Personal Trainers to figure out how to get more physical activity and/or exercise into your lifestyle.