Zinc intake among the elderly in Europe is generally low - but European researchers are currently trying to discover the role of zinc in preventing the chronic and degenerative diseases associated with ageing.
In a recently started EU-project, scientists will try to determine the variances in zinc dietary intake among different European countries, as well as the response to nutritional supplementation of zinc in late middle-aged and elderly people from these countries.
Volunteers will receive a placebo or two levels of zinc supplement for 6 months. The effects on nutrient status and intestinal absorption of zinc will be evaluated at the beginning, and after three and six months of zinc supplementation. Scientists in this project expect to provide reliable scientific data about the beneficial effects of optimal zinc status to older consumers.
Zinc is important for the body's defence mechanisms against inflammation diseases. Enrichment of the diet with this essential nutrient may be beneficial for health, but excess zinc may negatively interact with the metabolism of other minerals. A balanced diet is the best way to ensure adequate intake of zinc, write the scientists. The main dietary sources of zinc are cereals, dairy and meat products.
Practical applications from this research work in the future may be the formulation of public health recommendations on dietary zinc intake in aged Europeans, and the development of zinc-enriched products specially designed for late middle-aged and older men and women.
Further information about project no: QLK1-2001-00168 can be obtained from the project co-ordinator,Dr Charles Coudray, at INRA, Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France.