Reasons why you should add Zinc to your diet
Zinc supplements are easily available these days, and people have become increasingly aware of the importance of zinc. On drugstore shelves, you will now find numerous zinc supplements. Many of these are specifically meant to boost immunity during the cold season, for example. But there are many zinc benefits beyond immune boosts.
Zinc is one of the many minerals necessary for our health. It is a mineral we do not often think about because it simply occurs in a variety of things most of us consume in one way or another. But it is important to consider zinc benefits when you evaluate your health plans.
We all know we need things like calcium and iron. We also understand that all the major vitamins are important. Zinc is just as important as these other nutrients, and zinc benefits may well be more far-reaching than most of us know.
What exactly is zinc? What does zinc do for us? What happens if we do not get enough zinc? And what are zinc benefits? This guide will give you all the information you need to understand zinc benefits.
What is Zinc?
Chemically, zinc is a metal that has a silver-grey appearance. It is mined throughout the world in the form of sphalerite and refined for use in metal industries.
In its nutritional form, zinc is an essential mineral for human health. It is especially important for prenatal and postnatal development. Zinc deficiencies in children can lead to retardation and delayed sexual maturation, among other problems.
The importance of zinc was not fully known until relatively recently. The discovery of zinc deficiency in the early 1960s led researchers to begin to study the importance of dietary zinc. Since that time, doctors have come to understand that zinc is central to human health and iron and other well-known dietary minerals.
Zinc is in many commonly consumed foods. In parts of the world that rely primarily on grains for subsistence, zinc deficiencies are more common. As we will see below, zinc deficiency can be quite serious, especially in young and developing children.
Zinc is necessary for the immune system as it helps fight bacteria and viruses. Zinc is also essential to make proteins, genetic materials, and the formation of cells. Zinc also helps wounds heal. It is necessary for our senses of smell and taste.
The function of Zinc in your body
The primary biochemical function of zinc in the body is in the production of more than 300 enzymes. These enzymes are essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. This means that zinc plays important functions in muscle protein synthesis, genetic materials, the breakdown and assimilation of fats, and the metabolic processing of sugars for energy.
Zinc is partially absorbed immediately upon consumption. This is what is known as free ionic zinc. This type of nutritional zinc is carried via cell membrane to various parts of the body to begin the process of being metabolized into organ systems.
Some zinc goes directly to the intestinal tract, where it is further absorbed and carried into the metabolic processes. Studies show that most free ionic zinc is efficiently absorbed by the body. This is why sufficient zinc is generally not an issue for healthy people.
The most important biochemical function of zinc in the body is to reach a state of balance of zinc concentrations in the cells. This is called homeostasis, and this concentration of zinc provides the body with the precise levels it needs to perform properly. Since zinc is not produced by the body, we need to make sure we provide a steady supply, either through dietary sources of zinc or with a zinc supplement. This supply of zinc maintains the biological functions supported by zinc.
Another crucial function of zinc is that it works to stabilize the structure of cells. Cell membranes and other physical parts of the cell require zinc to maintain structural integrity. Finally, zinc is a crucial part of the immune system.
Zinc is required for numerous processes in your body, including:
- Gene expression
- Enzymatic reactions
- Immune function
- Protein synthesis
- DNA synthesis
- Wound healing
- Growth and development
Zinc Health Benefits
Since zinc plays such a crucial role in so many natural physiological functions, you may well imagine that it has numerous health benefits. The main health benefits of zinc include:
Boost the immune system
Because zinc is crucial for building cell walls and for allowing for signaling between cells, it plays an important role in the immune response. Zinc deficiency will lead to decreased immunity to common illnesses. Zinc also helps reduce oxidative stress which also strengthens the immune system.
Studies have shown that people who take a zinc supplement can reduce the length of a common call by up to 33 percent. Zinc has also been shown to reduce infections and promote the immune response in older adults.
Accelerates the healing of wounds
Zinc is a common treatment in hospitals for burns, certain kinds of ulcers, and other skin injuries. Zinc plays a crucial role in the synthesis of collagen which is a key part of the healing process in skin injuries. The highest concentration of zinc in the body is in the skin.
May reduce the risk of certain age-related diseases
Zinc seems to help reduce age-related diseases such as pneumonia, infections, and age-related macular degeneration.
Zinc reduces oxidative stress, and this helps improve the response of the immune system. Specifically, zinc helps promote the activity of T-cells. These are part of the immune response that kills infections and protects the body from infection.
Studies show that older adults who take a zinc supplement reduced their risk of pneumonia and increased their mental performance by as much as 66 percent. When combined with vitamin E, C, and beta-carotene, they significantly reduced their risk of infections even more.
Can treat acne
Acne is a common skin problem that affects more than 9 percent of the population. Acne is driven by the obstruction of glands that produce oil in the skin, bacteria, and inflammation.
Some studies have found that topical application of a zinc ointment works as an effective treatment for common acne. It works by suppressing bacteria that commonly cause acne. This tends to grow in the oil glands.
Zinc is known to work effectively at reducing oxidative stress. It also can reduce inflammatory proteins in the body. Oxidative stress causes chronic inflammation, which is a contributing factor to an array of illnesses, some of them quite serious.
Oxidative stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, and mental decline. A study of older adults found that a supplement of 45 mg of zinc per day drastically reduced the markers of oxidative stress.
Sources of Zinc
There are plenty of animal and plant-based foods that naturally contain zinc. It is one of the easiest minerals to get from dietary sources.
Foods that are naturally high in zinc include:
- Shellfish: Oysters, crab, mussels, lobster, and clams
- Meat: Beef, pork, lamb, and bison
- Poultry: Turkey and chicken
- Fish: Flounder, sardines, salmon, and sole
- Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, etc.
- Nuts and seeds: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, etc.
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt, and cheese
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.
- Certain vegetables: Mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus, and beet greens
Foods like meat and shellfish contain the highest levels of zinc that can be easily absorbed by the body.
Foods like legumes and whole grains do contain high levels of zinc, but much of this zinc is in forms that are not easily accessible by the body. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans are often counseled to take a zinc supplement.
Also keep in mind that many foods like ready-to-eat cereals, snack bars, and baking flours are often fortified with zinc.
Deficiency of Zinc
Severe zinc deficiency is quite rare. However, it does occur in people who have rare genetic mutations, in breastfeeding infants whose mothers do not get enough zinc, in people with alcohol addiction, and in anyone who is taking an immune-suppressing medication.
Symptoms of severe zinc deficiency include impaired growth and development, delayed sexual maturity, skin rashes, chronic diarrhea, impaired wound healing, and behavioral issues. Mild zinc deficiency is common in children from developing countries, where sufficient nutrition is often lacking.
Zinc deficiency can impair your immune system and significantly increase your risk of infection. Zinc deficiency is believed to be the cause of over 450,000 deaths in children under the age of 5 every year.
Those at risk of zinc deficiency include:
- People with gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Older infants who are exclusively breastfed
- People with sickle cell anemia
- People who are malnourished, including those with anorexia or bulimia
- People with chronic kidney disease
- Those who abuse alcohol
Mild zinc deficiency can cause diarrhea, decreased immunity, thinning hair, decreased appetite, mood disturbances, dry skin, fertility problems, and slow healing of wounds.
Zinc recommended dosage
Taking too much zinc can cause problems. Avoid taking a high-dose zinc supplement unless it has been recommended by a doctor. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of zinc for adult men is 11 mg. It is 8 mg for adult women.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should take 11-12 mg per day.
All this said, unless there is a problem, you should be able to obtain all the zinc you need from dietary sources.
The highest level of zinc that can be safely tolerated is 40 mg per day.
Zinc side effects
Zinc deficiency leads to serious problems. But taking too much zinc can also lead to serious problems. Excessive zinc intake becomes toxic. The most common cause of too much zinc is taking too many zinc supplements.
Symptoms of zinc toxicity include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal cramps
- Reduced immune function
- Decreased “good” HDL cholesterol levels
Taking too much zinc can also interfere with the proper absorption of other nutrients and minerals. For example, zinc interferes with the absorption of copper and iron and will lead to a deficiency of these important minerals.
As with any dietary supplement, if you have existing medical conditions, and you are not sure if you need a zinc supplement, consult your doctor. There are simple tests that can determine whether you need a zinc supplement.
Spartan Detox Vitamins
As we can see, getting enough zinc is essential to your health and well-being. In fact, zinc plays a crucial role in preventing all kinds of illnesses, including things as deadly as cancer. It simply makes sense to take a healthy and sound zinc supplement.
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Zinc is one of the necessary minerals we need for health and wellness. We do not often think about getting sufficient zinc, simply because it is so abundant in many of the foods we eat. But as we have seen, not getting enough zinc has some serious consequences.
What is more, some people struggle to get proper amounts of zinc in their diets. Whether because of dietary restrictions like vegetarians and vegans or because of underlying health issues, some people need to take extra measures to get sufficient amounts of zinc in their diets. For these people, zinc supplements may be necessary.
However, we need to be careful with zinc supplements. Zinc is one mineral that can cause a host of health issues if we take too much. If you are struggling to get proper levels of zinc in your diet, you may want to consult your doctor about how to best approach this issue.
For healthy people who need extra zinc in the form of a supplement, Spartan Detox provides vitamin and mineral supplements that will meet your needs.