Zinc for Building the Immune System

 

 

The Health Benefits of Zinc

A meta-analysis found that zinc reduces symptoms of the common cold, especially if taken in the first 24 hours of your illness. This mineral also supports eye function, protects the prostate, improves sex drive, clears up acne, quells inflammation, and helps with hormone regulation.

Zinc and cancer

There have been a number of studies looking at the possible roles of zinc in the body, with some researchers focusing specifically on zinc levels of people with cancer and other diseases.  These studies have found that zinc deficiency may be related to a variety of human cancers including breast, prostate, bladder, skin, esophageal, colon, head, neck, and leukemia.  Additionally, it was noted that zinc deficiency was also linked to having more advanced stages of the disease and a greater number of unplanned hospitalizations during prescribed treatments.

The regulatory effects of zinc on the NF-kB pathway makes zinc highly significant in the prevention of cancerous cell growth patterns.  Having higher levels of zinc inhibited angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels) in tumors and was shown to stimulate programmed cell death (or apoptosis) of abnormal cells, reducing the number of tumors and carcinogenic severity. Zinc also has the added benefit of displacing copper which tumors use to establish blood supplies so they can proliferate and spread.

Foods sources of zinc

Include oysters, meats, almonds, Brazil nuts, avocados, asparagus, greens, mushrooms, raspberries, dark chocolate, wheat germ, and seeds like pumpkin, chia, hemp, and sesame.

The work of George Eby and his study using zinc as an adjunctive therapy for acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Back in 1979, George’s three year old daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia.  He immediately started her on a nutritional regimen which included zinc along with therapeutic doses of various vitamins and minerals while at the same time receiving conventional treatments. Within 14 days of beginning the nutritional therapy, she had a complete remission in her bone marrow, going from 95+% blast cells* to an observed zero blast cell count.  

*Blast cells are immature cells of the myeloid cell line.  Although the cells of the myeloid cell line make up about 85% of the cells in bone marrow, less than 5% of those cells should be blast cells.  Blast cells are unable to develop into mature white blood cells and they begin to take over the bone marrow, preventing the normal  production of adequate numbers of other types of blood cells, such as platelets, red blood cells and healthy white blood cells.

What makes her case so remarkable is the swift decline that occurred in the blast cells along with the fact that she never suffered a relapse.  Furthermore, this was in 1979 when the five year survival rates for childhood ALL was less than 50%. George attributes her swift recovery to the supplementation of zinc. 

For the study:
In a case of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in a 3-year-old white female treated with CCG protocol 161, regimen 2 a bone marrow remission from 95+% blast cells to an observed zero blast cell count (not M-1 but M-0) occurred within 14 days of treatment.

During this same period adult therapeutic doses of all known vitamins (except folic acid) and all minerals and trace minerals were also given. In addition to the reduction of blast cells to an observed count of zero, red blood cell production and other hemopoietic functions returned to a modified normal condition at a clinically remarkable rate. No adverse effects of the chemotherapy were observed. Since most remissions after 30 days of treatment still show 3-5% blasts in the bone marrow, the question “Had there been an unknown but positive interaction between one or more of the supplemental nutrients and the chemotherapy?” was asked by the clinicians and parents. Research was initiated to ascertain if a nutrient deficiency could cause symptoms found in pre-leukemia and leukemia; and if such nutrient exists, would a positive interaction occur if it were administered as an adjunct to chemotherapy. If a nutrient could be shown to accelerate and strengthen the function of chemotherapy or the immune function, then it could be expected that the relapse rate could be lessened since the relapse rate to both the rate at which a remission is obtained and the thoroughness of the elimination of leukemic blasts.

Based upon a review of the available literature, only a zinc deficiency or zinc metabolism errors could theoretically cause all of the pre-leukemic conditions of allergy, loss of viral and tumoral immunity, asparagine production, growth suppression and other commonly observed pre-leukemic conditions. It was noted that leukemic cells contain much less zinc than normal lymphocytes which may be very important since zinc is vital for proper genetic and cellular function. Zinc metabolism deviations have been recognized in leukemia since 1949, but not well understood, although zinc was used in the early 1950s as a therapeutic drug in the treatment of leukemia. Zinc may function therapeutically in leukemia by augmenting L-asparaginase in killing leukemic cells (since a zinc deficiency may induce free asparagine), and by stimulating cell mediated immunity. Zinc is believed to have been the only nutrient that could have had a positive interaction with any of the chemotherapeutic drugs in CCG protocol 161 regimen 2.

In the child’s remission, zinc at 1-2 mg per pound of body weight was not observed to cause an increase in the lymphocyte count, but may have improved T-cell immune function. Zinc may have aided in restoring normal growth while using corticosteroids in a monthly pulse protocol. Zinc is known to stimulate effector T-cell function and increase the number of effector T-cells, even in leukemia, which may have aided in the destruction of residual leukemic cells, through amplification of the plaque-forming cell function of T-cells. Zinc is the body’s only T-cell lymphocyte activator.

In studies to ascertain the practical role of zinc in related hematological functions, zinc was found effective in increasing immunity to upper respiratory viruses and infections in general in normal people and leukemic children, management of Type I allergy and growth restoration in both normal and leukemic children. Therapy of the common cold with zinc yielded extremely rapid recoveries which strongly suggested that a zinc-viral antigen complex was highly stimulatory to interferon induction, and/or that the direct inhibition of rhinovirus by zinc may be highly practical and effective in vivo. Identical responses to zinc supplementation as an adjunct to standard treatment occurred in about one dozen children when zinc treatment was started with standard treatment between 1985 and 1997.

Additional Resources

Listen to an interiew with George Eby on his continuing work with zinc   Listen to an interview with George Eby on his continuing work with zinc

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Visit the website of George Eby for more info

Link to the study

Zinc and its role in the immune system

 

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