Effects of one year of supplementation with zinc and other micronutrients on cellular immunity in the elderly

John D. Bogden, James M. Oleske, Marvin A. Lavenhar, Elizabeth M. Munves, Francis W. Kemp, Kay S. Bruening, Kimberly J. Holding, Thomas N. Denny, Michael A. Guarino, Bart K. Holland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to determine the effects of a year of Zn supplementation on Zn concentrations in circulating cells and on cellular immune functions in the elderly. Subjects, aged 60-89, were given a placebo, 15 mg Zn, or 100 mg Zn daily for 12 months. All subjects also received a multivitamin/mineral supplement that contained no additional Zn. Blood samples were drawn and immune functions assessed prior to and at 3, 6,12, and 16 months after beginning Zn supplementation. Subject diets were also assessed at each visit. Dietary folate, pyridoxine, a-tocopherol, copper, zinc, and magnesium were consistently below recommended intakes. Although plasma Zn increased significantly in the 100 mg Zn treatment group, concentrations of Zn in erythrocytes, mononuclear cells, polymorphonuclear leukocytes, and platelets were not significantly increased by zinc supplementation. Natural killer cell activity was transiently enhanced by the 100 mg/day dose of Zn. There was a progressive improvement in delayed dermal hypersensitivity (DDH) and in lymphocyte proliferative responses to two mitogens; this may have been due to one or more components of the multivitamin/mineral supplement administered to all study subjects. The enhancement of DDH was significantly greater in the placebo group than in either zinc treatment group. Thus, zinc had a beneficial effect on one measure of cellular immune function while simultaneously having an adverse effect on another measure of cellular immunity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-225
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American College of Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Delayed dermal hypersensitivity
  • Mitogens
  • Natural killer cell activity
  • Trace elements
  • Vitamins
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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