Zinc Benefits, Recommended intake, Deficiency, Food Sources
Zinc helps to stimulate the activity of over 100 different enzymes in the body, and so plays an essential role in maintaining good health. Only a small intake of zinc is necessary to reap the benefits. Low levels can increase susceptibility to disease and illness. The human body contains around 2 to 3 grams of zinc at any one time which needs to be replenished through the diet. The element is naturally found in many different foods, but it is also available as a dietary supplement. The most important health benefits of this important mineral are listed below.
Health Benefits Of Zinc
• Acts as a Powerful Antioxidant that May Help Fight Cancer
Zinc is an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent, helping fight oxidative stress and decrease the chance of disease development, including as a natural cancer treatment. Especially in elderly patients, zinc benefits include its ability to support healthy cell division, preventing cancerous cell mutation and stunting tumor growth.
When researchers from the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan studied potential zinc benefits from zinc supplementation on 50 adults, they found that levels of oxidative stress markers were significantly lower in the zinc-supplemented group than in the placebo group. Those with lower zinc levels who didn’t take supplements had higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, higher plasma oxidative stress markers, and endothelial cell adhesion molecules. After zinc supplementation, the incidence of illness-related side effects and infections was also significantly lower in the zinc-supplemented group, another example of zinc’s immune-boosting abilities.
• Skin Care
Studies have shown zinc to be an effective home remedy for curing pimples. This mineral is also important for eliminating acne from the skin. It regulates and controls the amount of testosterone in the body, which plays a dominant role in causing acne. In addition to that, zinc is also involved in collagen synthesis. This further aids in normalizing the presence of oil under the skin and improves the maintenance of healthy skin. The open sores that come with acne are practically magnets for bacterial and viral infections and this mineral can stimulate the white blood cell count and reduce the chances of any type of infection.
White blood cells are integral to the healing process and can defend the body against a number of infections, including those that commonly attack canker sores, ulcers, burns, surgical incisions, and other wounds. Zinc is also required for the production of collagen, a connective tissue that is required for skin repair and regrowth. Acne can leave permanent scars on the skin and zinc can help reduce the evidence of those scars.
• Zinc Combats Allergy and Asthma
In response to grass pollen, an allergen that is a major cause of allergic rhinitis in many parts of the world, zinc increased regulatory T-cells and decreased proliferation in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated from allergic subjects. Low blood zinc levels are linked to more severe asthma symptoms in children. A study showed that zinc supplementation improved symptoms (e.g., cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath) in children with asthma.
It was also able to reduce airway inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in mouse models of allergic inflammation and asthma. In allergen-sensitized mice, it was able to inhibit respiratory tract epithelial cell death (by inhibiting caspase-3).
• Aids Diabetes Treatment
Zinc supplementation can have beneficial effects on glycemic control. As per other reports, women with prediabetes were found to be deficient in zinc. Zinc has also been found to prevent amylin (a protein) from forming clumps in the body, which can contribute to diabetes and other chronic ailments. The mineral also balances insulin, which can help deal with diabetes. Zinc also allows for the adequate utilization of digestive enzymes – these help insulin bind to cells and ensure glucose is used as fuel and not stored as fat.
• It Promotes Better Brain Health
High concentrations of zinc are found in the hippocampus, which is a center for memory and learning in the brain. A team of scientists from MIT and Duke University studied neurons in this area of the brain and discovered evidence of how zinc is critical for a process called long-term potentiation, which is important for memory and learning.
A deficiency of zinc, which is a potent antioxidant, seems to increase the ability of bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other harmful agents to cross the blood-brain barrier. Sufficient zinc, however, is believed to provide protection against such an invasion, according to research from the Linus Pauling Institute. Healthy zinc levels also may help protect against serious brain diseases such as schizophrenia, Pick’s disease, Wilson’s disease, and epileptic seizures, as well as alcoholism.
• Strong Bones
Getting a daily dose of zinc may help prevent osteoporosis in women, especially those who have gone through menopause. MedlinePlus reports that low zinc intakes in women are linked to lower bone density, and taking zinc supplements may help decrease bone loss in postmenopausal women. A 2016 review of studies on zinc and bone density in men and women with osteoporosis by The Cochrane Collaboration confirms these findings. The group reports that zinc supplements for 12 to 18 months significantly improved bone density in the lumbar spine and hip.
• Improve Cardiovascular Health
Zinc is vital to maintaining the health of cardiovascular cells and the endothelium. The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that lines the blood vessels and plays a major role in circulation. Low zinc can cause a deficiency in the endothelial barrier, which leads to high cholesterol buildup and inflammation. Cholesterol and inflammation increase your risk of heart disease.
Studies show that poor zinc status can amplify the negative cardiovascular effects of a high-fat, high-cholesterol diet, whereas an adequate zinc intake will have a protective effect and inhibit the progression of heart disease. The elderly population is especially susceptible to the buildup of inflammatory markers including C-reactive proteins and cytokines, which have been called “slow, silent killers.”
• Weight Loss
Zinc can manipulate the ghrelin hormone, which is what gives you those midnight hunger pangs, even though you have eaten a full meal. It acts as appetite suppressant and can help you lose some weight.
Adequate zinc intake is especially important for children because even mild zinc deficiency can impede growth, increase risk of infection, diarrhea and respiratory disease. The recommended intake for children 1-8 years old ranges from 3-5 milligrams, increasing as the child gets older.
Males 9-13 years old require 8 milligrams of zinc per day. After the age of 14, the requirement increases to the 11 milligrams per day that is required for all adult males. For females over the age of 8, the requirement stays stable at 8 milligrams per day, except for ages 14-18, where the recommendation increases to 9 milligrams per day.
Pregnant and lactating women have an increased need for zinc at 11-13 milligrams per day, depending on age.
Normally, zinc deficiency is due to insufficient dietary intake. However, it may also be due to malabsorption and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, malignancy (cancer), liver disease, and sickle cell disease.
Zinc deficiency signs include loss of appetite, anemia, slow wound healing, skin conditions such as acne or eczema, abnormal taste and smell, depressed growth, altered cognition, depression (more research needed), diarrhea, hair loss.
Zinc deficiency during pregnancy may increase the chances of a difficult or prolonged birth.
Food Sources of Zinc
A healthy whole-foods diet will provide you with the trace elements that your body needs to replenish on a regular basis. Zinc is no exception, although the body is unable to store it in large quantities, its uses are plenty. Here is a list of foods that are rich in zinc
→ Beef chuck roast
→ Pork Chops
→ Beef patty
→ Breakfast cereal (fortified with zinc)
→ Baked beans
→ Chicken and dark meat
→ Cashews (dry roasted)
→ Cooked chickpeas
→ Almonds (dry roasted)
Many processed foods are fortified with zinc but it is much preferred that you go the whole-foods route to promote overall health.
Zinc Side Effects And Interactions
Zinc is extremely safe when taken within the recommended doses. However, taking doses higher than 40mg per day can cause mild side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea, and can suppress copper and iron absorption.
Zinc may interact with medications or herbs that increase the risk of bleeding, such as Ginkgo Biloba, and with certain antibiotics. Therefore you should consult your GP if you are taking any prescription medications.
Routine zinc supplementation is not recommended without the advice of a healthcare professional.
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