However, it's uncertain for now if very sick ICU patients would benefit from zinc supplements.
"I think the question is whom to give zinc to, if anybody at all. We predict that not everybody in the ICU with sepsis needs zinc, but I anticipate that a proportion of them would," added Knoell, also an investigator in Ohio State's Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute. "Zinc is a critical element that we get from our diet, but we do not think we can give zinc and fix everything. Usually, if there is zinc deficiency, we would expect to see other nutrient deficiencies, too."
Their findings could help explain why taking zinc supplements at the start of a cold seems to ease the effects of the illness, the researchers suggest.
"There might be therapeutic implications about giving supplemental zinc in a strategic manner to help improve some people with certain conditions. But also, could we learn from this so someday we can be more diagnostic about who it is that needs zinc? And if so, what dose and for how long?" Knoell said.
Most adults should get 8 milligrams to 11 milligrams of zinc daily. With supplements, the researchers noted it is possible but relatively uncommon to consume toxic levels of zinc.
The study appeared Feb. 7 in the journal Cell Reports.
The U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements has more about zinc.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Feb. 7, 2013
All rights reserved