Zinc deficiency has been linked to a host of diseases in a new study.
Researchers at Oregon State University found that elderly people without adequate zinc in their body are more at risk of a variety of maladies like cancer, heart disease and autoimmune disorders.
Indeed, the study suggests that supplemental zinc is often necessary as one ages, as the ability to absorb it decreases, said Science Daily.
"The elderly are the fastest growing population in the US. and are highly vulnerable to zinc deficiency," said study author Emily Ho, reported the website.
"They don't consume enough of this nutrient and don't absorb it very well."
The study said that many Americans were deficient in the mineral.
About 40 percent of elderly Americans were zinc deficient and two billion people around the world have diets that do not provide adequate amounts, said E! Science News.
The researchers said that inflammation is one of the key side effects of not having enough zinc.
"We've previously shown in both animal and human studies that zinc deficiency can cause DNA damage, and this new work shows how it can help lead to systemic inflammation," said Ho, reported Science Daily.
"Some inflammation is normal, a part of immune defense, wound healing and other functions but in excess, it's been associated with almost every degenerative disease you can think of, including cancer and heart disease. It appears to be a significant factor in the diseases that most people die from."
The new research adds to growing evidence about the mineral's health benefits.
The study was published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.