Minerals: Essential for Health – Zinc
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If the Magnesium is the King of the minerals essential for our human body, Zinc can certainly be considered the Queen – Feel free to reverse the order based on your own gender preferences.
Zinc is an essential mineral contributing to our total physical and mental well-being. The average adult human body contains only about 2 grams of this mineral. Even a little deficiency in Zinc causes perils for our immune system. There are 156 enzymes that require zinc for their functioning. It acts as a cofactor with more than 300 different enzymes, boosting the functioning of many of the body’s most basic chemical processes. It is a constituent of many enzymes involved in metabolism.
Zinc deficiency results in weight loss, skin diseases, loss of hair, poor appetite, diarrhea, and frequent infections. It is a key player in the optimal functioning of the reproductive organs, and an important element involved in basic cellular function. It is needed for a strong immune system, healthy skin and hair, proper healing of wounds, successful pregnancies and male virility. It plays a vital role in guarding against diseases and infection. It is also needed to transport vitamin A to the retina.
As Zinc is an integral and essential element of insulin molecule, it is needed for the sugar metabolism and energy management in the body. Zinc easily forms a compound with Insulin, and thus prolongs insulin action. As pancreas is rich in zinc, it helps storage of insulin in the pancreas.
Zinc is an essential micronutrient for numerous cellular processes. It is essential for optimal growth and repair. Zinc deficiencies can result in growth retardation in children, significantly weakened immune function, poor wound healing and muscle loss. Men with zinc shortage may have a problem with fertility, while women may experience irregular periods. Children with too little zinc may have stunted growth and slow sexual maturity.
Zinc promotes growth and sexual maturity, improves immune system and hastens healing of wounds, and helps digestion of protein. It is an ideal remedy for fatigue. If you’re fit and active, but lag during exercise or feel stiff afterward, you might be low on zinc. New research suggests that zinc may also help fuel us during workouts. In men, zinc plays a significant role in reproductive capacity. Insufficient intake of this mineral quickly lowers testosterone levels and reduces sperm count in otherwise healthy young men.
Zinc strengthens the human immune system and deters common skin conditions. It is used in treating the skin problems such as acne, boils and sore throats. It is also required for protein synthesis and collagen formation. Without adequate levels of zinc, skin begins to sag and lose its elasticity.
Zinc is essential for the formation of superoxide dismutase, one of the body’s most potent antioxidants. It is essential to protecting against oxidative stress and helping DNA repair. “In one clinical study with men, we were able to see increases in DNA damage from zinc deficiency even before existing tests, like decreased plasma zinc levels, could spot the zinc deficiency. An inadequate level of zinc intake clearly has consequences for cellular health,” said Emily Ho, an associate professor with the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU, an international expert on the role of dietary zinc.
Many zinc studies, Ho said, have focused on prostate cancer – the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American men – because the prostate gland has one of the highest concentrations of zinc in the body – for reasons that are not clearly known.
Zinc is important in prostate gland function and may help prevent and treat prostate cancer. It has been found that the level of zinc drops precipitously in cancerous prostate glands. Some studies have suggested that increasing zinc in the prostate may at least help prevent prostate cancer and could potentially be a therapeutic strategy. There are concerns about the relationship of zinc intake to esophageal, breast, head , and neck cancers. And, “the reduced zinc status that occurs with aging may also contribute to a higher incidence of infection and autoimmune diseases”, researchers said in one study in the Journal of Nutrition.
Deficiency Symptoms of Zinc:
On the visible side, deficiency of Zinc causes depletion of collagen resulting in sagging skin. The major symptoms of zinc deficiency are the loss of the senses of taste and smell, weak and thin fingernails, hair loss, impaired night vision, increased susceptibility to infection, memory impairment, diabetes, skin lesions, and slow wound healing.
Rich Food Sources of Zinc:
Food sources for zinc are brewer’s yeast, egg yolks, cheese, kelp, lamb, legumes, lima-beans, liver, meats, mushrooms, pecans, poultry, pumpkin seeds, sardines, crabs, oysters, sunflower seeds, and wheat germ. Zinc is also found in vegetables foods like, alfalfa, burdock, cayenne, chamomile, dandelion, eyebright, fennel seeds, milk thistle, nettle, parsley, rose hips, sage, skullcap, and wild yam. But, the bioavailability of zinc in vegetables foods is proven to be low.
Supplementation & Dosage:
Zinc is not easily absorbed in the body unless first attached to another substance. For this reason zinc is chelated to organic and amino acids. In this process the organic molecules have been given an electrical charge that allows them to positively attract the charged mineral (in this case zinc). This creates an increase in the concentration of the mineral within the chelated molecule.
The belief is that this helps the body better absorb the mineral. Zinc is chelated with various organic and amino acids.
The best chelated forms of zinc are: Zinc Picolinate, Zinc Citrate or Zinc Orotate..
[Note: Avoid zinc in the form of “Zinc Gluconate” as the bio-availability of this form is virtually zero.]
Zinc should be taken with water or juice. However, if zinc causes stomach upset, it can be taken with meals.
It is best to take zinc supplement separately from other minerals, especially iron, copper, manganese, and calcium as they may interfere with zinc absorption.
In a multi-vitamin situation, make sure that the zinc and iron are nearly in the same amounts.
Also, a strong relationship exists between zinc and copper. Too much of one can cause a deficiency in the other. Long-term use of zinc (including zinc in a multivitamin) should be accompanied by copper – The optimal balance ratio for copper and zinc is 1 to 10.
The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 10 -15 milligrams a day for women and 15-20 milligrams for men – Anything over 50 milligrams a day could be considered excessive.
Intake of zinc in excess of 100 mg may cause serious health problems as excess of it can interfere with the absorption of other important nutrients such as iron and copper. Elevated intake of zinc (1- 2 gram per day) over an extended period can actually harm your immune system instead of assisting it. Intake of zinc should be kept to under 100 mg per day. Large intakes of zinc can cause nausea and diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, fever and chills, electrolyte imbalances, dizziness, abdominal pain, lethargy and a disruption of coordination.