Although often overlooked, zinc plays an enormous role in your health and well-being. You may have heard that zinc is helpful during cold and flu season; this is because of its effects on the immune system. Research shows that zinc increases the immune system’s ability to organize itself against unwanted pathogens. Thus possibly decreasing the length of illness and severity of symptoms! Yet, be forewarned, in some instances, such as severe childhood pneumonia, no improvement was noted.
Although zinc may not be the strongest contender in the fight against the common cold or flu, it is in fact a DNA defender. Zinc deficiencies can lead to oxidative damage to our genes, and thus our cells, tissues and organs! Therefore, zinc is a necessary cornerstone to any healthy foundation.
Speaking of healthy foundations, zinc is also very important to reproductive health for both men and women. Zinc is not only necessary for normal prostate functioning, but also for healthy sperm counts. Meanwhile, zinc is necessary for normal ovulation and healthy pregnancy in women.
Zinc deficiency is also correlated with increased risk of bone fracture in middle aged men. Another study suggests that the elderly suffering from osteoporosis have lower zinc serum levels than their non-osteoporotic peers. Yet, to assume that more zinc yields more bone is erroneous. Rather than acting simply as a bone building block, zinc may actually be used as a very subtle and specific signal communicator; a bone-whisperer if you will!
Zinc also has its role in supporting healthy skin. Zinc has been studied in the successful treatment of warts, rosacea, oral herpes simplex, acne, and even hidradenitis suppurativa. It is suspected that the above efficacy is due in part to the anti-inflammatory nature of the mineral.
Then of course, we must also consider eye health. Zinc is found in large quantities in the eyes, more so than most parts of the human body. Zinc supplementation has actually been shown to slow the progression of age related macular degeneration (AMD). In other cases zinc demonstrated an improvement in macular functioning, for those already diagnosed with AMD! Do you now see why zinc is so important?
Still not impressed yet? Well then, did you know that zinc:
is responsible for catalyzing hundreds of biochemical processes in the body
is necessary in order to be able to smell and taste
it aids in optimal athletic performance
supports proper levels of mood enhancing neurotransmitters
aids healing of burns
It is suspected that many Americans are failing to meet the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, for zinc. Suboptimal status exists most commonly in college-aged women, seniors, vegetarians, pregnant and lactating women, and people of low income. The typical Western diet, high in processed grains, may be the cause for low levels of dietary zinc. Processed grains contain a substance called phytate, which binds to zinc, and decreases its absorption. Moreover, calcium and elemental iron can further impede zinc’s absorption by the body. The best course of action when it comes to boosting your levels is to consume food rich in this mineral. Consider integrating shellfish such as oysters, shrimp and crab into your diet. Red meat, chicken, turkey, and certain cheeses also contain substantial amounts of zinc. Vegans and vegetarians need not fret, as pinto beans, lima beans, soy beans, leafy greens and many more, are also great sources.
Although zinc is widely beneficial, it does have the ability to interfere with medications and other substances in the body. As zinc is considered a trace mineral, it is possible to take too large of a dose. Therefore the RDA for zinc is not to be exceeded without proper medical supervision. Please note that the above information is not meant to replace professional in-office medical advice.