Trace element status and fatty acids metabolism during healthy ageing: An example of a population from the Tunisian eastern coast

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Micronutrients as well as essential fatty acids are indispensable for the correct functioning of the organism. The risk of disturbance in the associated nutrition and metabolism is expected to increase during ageing. In addition, it seems that trace elements are involved in the fatty acids metabolism. The aim of the present study was then to assess age-related changes in trace elements status and in plasma essential fatty acids composition with an emphasis on the desaturase activity estimation. Two hundred healthy Tunisian subjects (30–85 years old) were recruited and separated into two subgroups: elderly (65–85 years old) and middle-aged (30–60 years old). The findings revealed that plasma zinc and calcium concentrations significantly decreased according to age. The prevalence of zinc deficiency was therefore shown to increase in old age (over 60% of elderly subjects were deficient or at risk of deficiency). No age-related changes were obtained for copper or magnesium status. The Δ6 desaturase, involved in the EFAs conversion, was shown to decrease according to age and to be associated with the plasma zinc level. Since elderly subjects were at risk of nutritional imbalance, it would be interesting to set optimal dietary proportion. This will help to prevent age-associated alterations and diseases for a better and healthy ageing.

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