Effects of zinc-fortified drinking skim milk (as functional food) on cytokine release and thymic hormone activity in very old persons: A pilot study

Laura Costarelli, Robertina Giacconi, Marco Malavolta, Andrea Basso, Francesco Piacenza, Mariluisa DeMartiis, Elvio Giannandrea, Carlo Renieri, Franco Busco, Roberta Galeazzi, Eugenio Mocchegiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Zinc is a relevant nutritional factor for the whole life of an organism because it affects the inflammatory/immune response and antioxidant activity, leading to a healthy state. Despite its important function, the dietary intake of zinc is inadequate in elderly. Possible interventions include food fortification because it does not require changes in dietary patterns, the cost is low and it can reach a large portion of the elderly population, including very old subjects. Studies evaluating the impact of Zn-fortified foods on functional parameters in elderly, in particular, in very old individuals, are missing. The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of consumption of a zinc-fortified drinking skim milk (Zn-FMilk) for a period of 2 months in comparison to standard non-fortified milk (No-FMilk) on some biochemical parameters, zinc status, inflammatory/immune response and on a key parameter of the T cell-mediated immunity (thymulin hormone) in healthy very old subjects. The treatment with zinc-fortified milk (Zn-FMilk) is a good omen to increase the cell-mediated immunity in very old age represented by thymulin activity and some cytokine (IL-12p70, IFN-γ) release. At clinical level, a good healthy state occurs in 70 % of the subjects with no hospitalization after 1 year of the follow-up in comparison to very old control subjects that did not participate to crossover design. In conclusion, the Zn-FMilk can be considered a good functional food for elderly, including older people. It might be a good replacement to the zinc tablets or lozenges taking into account the attitude of old people to uptake milk as a preferential food.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1421-1431
Number of pages11
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014



  • Ageing
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammatory/immune response
  • Thymulin
  • Zinc-fortified milk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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