Aging is associated with low-grade inflammation on the one hand and mild zinc deficiency on the other. These conditions contribute to decreased immune functions, resulting in increased incidences of infections and autoimmune diseases. The aim of this study was to give more insight into the question, to what extent is low-grade inflammation caused by zinc deficient status. Here we report the effect of improved intracellular zinc status on low-grade inflammatory activity in 19 healthy elderly subjects. Our experiments show that adjustment of labile zinc by moderate zinc supplementation reduces spontaneous cytokine release and defects in termination of inflammatory activity. This results in reduced amounts of unspecific preactivated T cells and leads to improved T cell response upon mitogenic stimulation. Therefore, in contrast to other anti-inflammatory drugs, zinc does not suppress, but improves immune reaction upon pathogen invasion. These results suggest that mildly zinc-deficient, healthy elderly subjects might benefit from moderate zinc supplementation due to a more balanced immune response with reduced incidences of infections and autoimmune diseases.
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