Researchers uncover secret to staying pneumonia-free this winter

Low levels of zinc can kill more than just your sex drive. Turns out, not having enough of this important nutrient can increase your risk of dying from pneumonia.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that zinc plays an important role in either preventing or limiting the damage done by pneumonia.

Researchers from the USDA, Tufts University, and Boston University studied nursing home residents (averaging 84.6 years old) over a 12-month period. When the researchers measured the zinc levels at the end of the study, they discovered that those with low levels had an increased incidence of pneumonia, had it for a longer period of time, and needed to take antibiotics for longer as well. (With the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs like MRSA, the less you use antibiotics, the better.)

But to me, the most important part of the study was this: Those who had a normal zinc level had a 39-percent lower mortality rate than those who were low in zinc. It just makes sense: If you don't develop pneumonia, chances are pretty good you're not going to die from it.

But the study didn't merely show that adequate levels of zinc can help prevent pneumonia - it showed that supplementing with zinc is an effective way of reducing your risk. Quite a switch from the supplement-bashing studies (no doubt funded by Big Pharma) popping up in medical journals.

It's no wonder zinc would mount such a strong defense against a disease like pneumonia. It's responsible for helping you maintain a healthy immune system. It increases the production of your infection-fighting white blood cells-plus it gives them the extra boost they need to fight more aggressively. Zinc also increases the number of your infection-fighting T-cells.

The researchers concluded that more research is necessary (of course they did - that's how they get paid, isn't it?). I wouldn't wait around for them, though.

You can get all the zinc you need by including plenty of meat in your diet. At two milligrams per ounce, a nine-ounce steak would put you right in the middle of the recommended 15 to 25 mgs per day.

But be careful: Zinc can easily fall into the "too much of a good thing" category. If you O.D. on zinc, it can actually inhibit your immune function. Your best bet is to go to an alternative doctor and have a test done to determine if you're deficient in zinc - and to tell you how much you should supplement with.

To find an alternative doc in your area, go to www.acam.org.