Eat oysters to avoid zinc deficiency which can reduce the body’s power to fight inflammation.
Scientists now believe lack of sufficient levels of zinc may play a role in chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
“When you take away zinc, the cells that control inflammation appear to activate and respond differently; this causes the cells to promote more inflammation,” said Emily Ho, a professor and director of the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health.
Zinc is found in protein rich foods like meat and shellfish. Oysters are among the foods with the highest zinc content.
The body cannot store the mineral very well so regular intake is important.
Older adults tend not to absorb zinc as well as younger people and they are also less likely to include enough of it in their dietes.
A study carried out by Prof Ho was able to show for the first time that reducing zinc affects immune cell activation and a protein that affects inflammation.
Understanding the role of zinc in the body is important to determining whether dietary guidelines for zinc need to be adjusted.
The recommended daily intake of zinc for adults is 8 milligrams for women and 11 milligrams for men, regardless of age.
The guidelines may need to be adjusted for older adults to ensure they are getting enough zinc, Ho said.
“We think zinc deficiency is probably a bigger problem than most people realize,” she said. “Preventing that deficiency is important.”
The findings were published recently in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.