Several recent studies have looked at the relationship between zinc and COVID-19. While far from a cure, previous research has shown that zinc can fight other types of coronaviruses. Getting more zinc in your diet may improve your odds against COVID-19.
We’ve known since the early days of the pandemic that the elderly are more susceptible to COVID-19. We also know from previous research that older adults are also commonly deficient in the zinc, a mineral essential to immune function. Experts say that as many as two billion people across the globe consume inadequate levels of zinc. That figure includes roughly 40% of America’s seniors.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is an important trace mineral that people need to stay healthy. Of the trace minerals, this element is second only to iron in its concentration in the body.
Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It is needed for the immune system to work properly. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, and wound healing. Zinc also helps the body break down carbohydrates by enhancing the effects of insulin. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood the body requires adequate zinc for proper growth and development.
What Is the Link Between Zinc and COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a novel coronavirus. Coronaviruses are also responsible for the common cold. Many studies have shown that zinc supplements can shorten the duration of a cold and reduce the severity of its symptoms.
We don’t know for sure at this point whether zinc can protect us against COVID-19.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Older patients with poor dietary habits are at risk for mild-to-moderate zinc deficiency. The elderly often suffer from a loss of appetite due to illness or as a side effect from medications they may be taking. This puts them at a greater risk of infection.
Symptoms of a zinc deficiency include:
- slow wound healing
- more frequent infections
- loss of taste or smell
The diagnosis of zinc deficiency should start with a review of the patient’s eating habits. Most older adults can achieve an adequate zinc intake by eating a balanced diet. Supplementation is appropriate in cases of known or suspected zinc deficiency.
Food rich in zinc include:
- Shellfish, oysters, crab, lobster
Putting It All Together
Here’s what we know: COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. Many common colds are also caused by coronaviruses. Zinc has been proven to fight the common cold. The elderly are at higher risk for COVID-19. The elderly are also commonly deficient in zinc. There doesn’t appear to be a downside to getting more zinc through your diet. Should you consider a supplement? That’s your call but be aware that some experts advise older adults to take a dietary supplement to meet the recommended daily allowance for zinc, which is 11 milligrams for men and 8 milligrams for women.