Maintaining normal serum-zinc concentration in the blood may help reduce the risk of pneumonia development in the population residing in such facilities, a study in the October issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition says.

Simin Nikbin Meydani and colleagues at Tufts University, Boston, analyzed blood samples from 617 men and women at the beginning of the study and compared them to samples at the end of one year. Participants whose serum zinc concentrations remained low throughout that 12-month period had more difficulty battling pneumonia.

“Not only did those participants have a higher risk of developing pneumonia when they did become sick, they did not recover as quickly and required a longer course of antibiotics,” says Meydani,. “We also noted a higher rate of death from all causes.”

Maintaining normal serum- zinc concentration in the blood throughout the 12-month study period benefited the participants even if they did develop pneumonia. Meydani adds, “Those participants with normal serum- zinc concentrations in their blood were more likely to spend fewer days on antibiotics and recover more quickly.”

Meydani and colleagues conclude that zinc may reduce the risk of pneumonia, and its associated complications in nursing home residents. “Zinc is already known to strengthen the immune system; however, there needs to be further investigation of zinc and its effect on pneumonia development and prevention in nursing homes,” he says. “The next step would likely be a clinical trial.”

To read the abstract, click here.