Health Questions and Answers

Question: Why is zinc important to the immune system?


Zinc has important effects on the immune system and on wound healing. Zinc deficiency causes a profound suppressive effect on thymic function, T-lymphocyte development, lympho-proliferation, T-cell dependent B-cell functions, and resistance to infections. Conversely, zinc supplementation has been shown to enhance certain immune responses in people. Animal studies also confirm this fact. In mice, immunosuppression induced by copper deficiency was reversed by administration of zinc. Zinc salts stimulate the production of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and, if given with copper, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) A study from Thailand examined the effect of zinc and vitamin A supplementation. The combined supplement increased lymphocyte response to tuberculin purified protein derivative.

Zinc deficiency impairs wound healing, although zinc supplementation does not improve it in the absence of deficiency. This is especially important to the maintenance of the primary barrier function of the skin.

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