About minerals in immune system


Selenium is important in maintaining resistance to disease. As part of the antioxidant enzyme, glutathione peroxidase, it may enhance immune function by protecting white blood cells from free radical damage. It also appears to increase antibody production, and accelerate the production of white blood cells and enhance their effectiveness in attacking and destroying harmful microorganisms.

About minerals in immune systemCopper

Copper is important in developing resistance to infection. Copper deficiency can lead to reduced resistance to infection as white blood cell activity and cellular immune responses are reduced. The ratio of zinc to copper may also affect immune system effectiveness. Susceptibility to disease seems to increase when copper intake is high and zinc intake is low.


Iron is involved in the maintenance of a healthy immune system and the immune response can be impaired in iron-deficient people. Chronic yeast infections and herpes infections may be more common in people who are iron-deficient. Certain types of immune cells rely on iron to generate the oxidative reactions that allow these cells to kill off bacteria and other pathogens. When iron levels are low, these cells cannot function properly.

However, iron is an important nutrient for bacteria and in conditions where iron levels in the tissues are too high, such as the iron overload disorder hemochromatosis, defense against bacterial infections may be impaired. Excess iron can also generate free radicals which can damage the immune system.

About minerals in immune systemZinc

Zinc is considered one of the most important nutrients for the immune system as it is necessary for healthy antibody, white blood cell, thymus gland and hormone function. It is therefore vital in maintaining resistance to infection and in wound- healing.

Immune function is affected by zinc deficiency, which results in a decrease in the numbers of several types of T cells, natural killer cells and other components of the immune response. This leads to increased susceptibility to infection and wound-healing time.

Zinc supplementation improves immune function in those who are deficient. It increases the activity of the thymus gland, improves antibody responses and enhances the functioning of white blood cells. It has been shown to inhibit the growth of bacteria and possibly viruses. Zinc supplements have also been shown to boost levels of interferon, a protein which is formed when cells are exposed to viruses and which helps to fight infection.

Researchers at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark tested the effects of one year of supplementation with zinc and other micronutrients on cellular immunity in elderly people. The patients, aged 60-89, were either given a placebo, 15 mg of zinc, or 100 mg of zinc daily for 12 months. The results showed improvements in some aspects of immunity. In another double-blind, randomized, controlled trial, published in 1998, researchers tested the effects of vitamin A and zinc (25 mg as zinc sulfate) supplements in 136 residents of a public home for older people in Rome. The results showed that zinc supplementation improved cell-mediated immune response.

Many studies show beneficial effects of zinc in the treatment of diarrhea, a major cause of death in children in developing countries. Researchers involved in a double-blind trial carried out in India involving almost 600 children aged 6- 35 months found that zinc supplements reduced diarrhea outbreaks. However, long-term use of zinc in doses above 150 mg have been reported to cause the suppression of immune function.

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About minerals in immune system



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