How to boost your immune system with Zinc

What is zinc?

Zinc is a natural element that must be consumed in our diets as our body is unable to make it. Zinc is found in highest amounts in animal products but is also present in nuts, seeds and whole grains.

Inadequate intake of zinc is not uncommon, particularly in vegetarians and vegans and up to 10% of the UK population have a zinc deficiency, depending on the age and gender [2]. Being deficient in zinc may detrimentally affect your nervous system, gastrointestinal system, skeletal system, reproductive system and the immune system.

Will zinc help my immune system?

There are several ways in which zinc helps the immune system. Zinc helps the healthy development and function of immune cells including macrophages, neutrophils and B and T cells that help our body’s response to pathogens. For instance, researchers from Florida found that zinc supplementation helps increase the activation of T cells which are the cells responsible for killing pathogens [3]. 

Interestingly, zinc also has a role in a feedback loop to prevent the immune response from overreacting to foreign bodies like viruses. Research by Ohio State University found that zinc also dampens the immune response to keep it in check [4]. Without enough zinc, inflammation may increase to the point where it is harmful rather than helpful.

Given the roles of zinc, it is unsurprising that zinc deficiency reduces your body’s ability to fight off infections. Pneumonia, a severe infection of the lungs, is associated with zinc deficiency in both young children [5] and the elderly [1]. 

A randomised controlled trial has indicated that zinc supplementation may help reduce infections, including the common cold. Published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the trial showed that taking zinc lozenges during a bout of the common cold decreased the severity and duration of symptoms such as coughing [6]. 

Zinc clearly has a vital role in immune function. To understand whether your immune system needs more zinc, you should check your levels of zinc in the body.

The best way to check you have healthy levels of zinc is by a simple finger-prick blood test. Order our home diagnosis kit today for fast results

We also have a wide range of tests to check your body is healthy and has sufficient levels of vitamins and minerals. Check out our health checks today at 


1.    Barnett, J. B., Hamer, D. H. & Meydani, S. N. Low zinc status: A new risk factor for pneumonia in the elderly? Nutrition Reviews (2010) doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2009.00253.x.
2.    Derbyshire, E. Micronutrient Intakes of British Adults Across Mid-Life: A Secondary Analysis of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Front. Nutr. (2018) doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00055.
3.    Aydemir, T. B., Liuzzi, J. P., McClellan, S. & Cousins, R. J. Zinc transporter ZIP8 (SLC39A8) and zinc influence IFN-γ expression in activated human T cells. J. Leukoc. Biol. (2009) doi:10.1189/jlb.1208759.
4.    Liu, M. J. et al. ZIP8 Regulates Host Defense through Zinc-Mediated Inhibition of NF-κB. Cell Rep. (2013) doi:10.1016/j.celrep.2013.01.009.
5.    Lassi, Z. S., Moin, A. & Bhutta, Z. A. Zinc supplementation for the prevention of pneumonia in children aged 2 months to 59 months. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2016) doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005978.pub3.
6.    Prasad, A. S., Beck, F. W. J., Bao, B., Snell, D. & Fitzgerald, J. T. Duration and Severity of Symptoms and Levels of Plasma Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist, Soluble Tumor Necrosis Factor Receptor, and Adhesion Molecules in Patients with Common Cold Treated with Zinc Acetate. J. Infect. Dis. (2008) doi:10.1086/528803.

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