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Zinc and ageing: third Zincage conference

DOI: 10.1186/1742-4933-4-5

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Zincage [1] is a specific targeted research project (STREP) funded by the European Union in the 6th Framework Program (FP6). It includes epidemiological studies on the influence of diet and lifestyle on healthy ageing, aimed at preventing adult degenerative disease, particularly focusing on cardiovascular diseases and also addressing malnutrition of the elderly. The conference held in Ancona, January 2007, was focussed particularly on the effects of Zn supplementation in the elderly and on the possible influences of dietary, biochemical and genetic factors on the individual response. Zn deficiency, cell-mediated immune dysfunction and increased oxidative stress are common in elderly subjects and it is quite clear that dietary habits including Zn consumption have a great impact on these factors. Zn supplementation in the elderly can improve the immune response and reduce oxidative stress markers, thereby contributing to a reduced incidence of infections. However, individual differences in the response to Zn can lead to contradictory results even with supplementation trials performed in elderly people of the same age-groups. One of the reasons for these individual differences is the different genetic background of the subjects enrolled in the study. In fact, some proteins with documented polymorphic sites are involved in regulating Zn homeostasis. One important class of such proteins are the metallothioneins (MT), which bind Zn with high affinity but, at the same time, release free Zn ions in response to oxidative/nitrosative stress and thereby modulate the expression of Zn-dependent genes and activate antioxidant enzymes. Differences in Zn status have also been observed in individuals carrying different alleles for polymorphisms of pro-inflammatory cytokines (i.e. IL-6 and TNF-alpha). In addition, the individual response can be modulated by dietary habits because Zn absorption and availability is dependent on the intake of other nutrients and trace elements.These asp


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