What Does Zinc Do?
Zinc is a very important micronutrient that plays various vital roles in our overall health. It’s even fair to say that zinc is the most important trace nutrient for our health, after iron. It’s needed for the catalytic activity of about 100 enzymes, help in the healing of wounds, DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, and cell division.
Zinc is a natural element in many foods but is also available in multiple forms, including dietary supplements, food, eye drops, and skin creams, and can be used to treat a large number of ailments, enhance immune function, keep your eyes, skin, and heart health, among many other things.
Here are a couple of useful zinc supplements that can be beneficial for your health:
- Zinc acetate is usually added to cold lozenges with the goal of reducing symptoms and speeding up recovery.
- Zinc gluconate is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter zinc supplement forms. It is often used to remedy colds and can be found in lozenges and nose sprays.
- Zinc orotate is another of the most common forms of zinc, and is bound to oriotic acid.
- Zinc sulfate is noted for its ability to assist in reducing the severity of acne, as well as keeping your body’s zinc levels up to snuff, of course.
- Zinc citrate is similar to zinc gluconate in function and absorption but is less bitter to the taste and easier to ingest.
- Zinc picolinate, according to some research, is easier for your body to absorb than other types of zinc, such as zinc citrate and zinc gluconate.
Besides supplements, zinc also occurs naturally in many types of food. Oysters are far richer in zinc than any other food, containing about 10 times more zinc than red meat, which comes in second place to oysters in zinc content. A few other foods that are decent sources of zinc are crab, cereal, lobster, pork loin, baked beans, chicken, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt, cashew nuts, chickpeas, Swiss cheese, oatmeal, milk, almonds, kidney beans, and peas.
You can find zinc in a few other products as well, including several which are labeled as over-the-counter homeopathic medications sold to treat and prevent colds. Zinc can also be found in a few denture adhesive creams with varying levels of content varying from 17-34 mg/g.
The amount of zinc that should be taken per day can vary depending on what type of zinc supplement you’re taking, since not every supplement contains the same amount of elemental zinc. Take zinc sulfate, for example. About 23% of its content is elemental zinc, which means there’s approximately 50 mg of zinc per 220 mg of zinc sulfate. These amounts are usually found on the label of the supplement, which makes it easy to figure out how much you need to take for your needs. The recommended daily dosage for adults is generally between 15-30 mg of elemental zinc.
There are a whole myriad of things sicknesses and symptoms that zinc will likely help you fight, including diarrhea, Wilson disease, acne, acrodermatitis enteropathica, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), eating disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), burns, non, cancerous growths in the rectum and large intestine, the common cold, depression, foot sores on individuals with diabetes, diaper rashes, gingivitis, bad breath, cold sores, reduced ability to taste, Leishmania lesions, leprosy, muscle cramps, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers, sore throats, pneumonia, bed sores, illness from a Shigella bacteria infection, sickle cell disease, leg sores caused by weak blood circulation, warts and vitamin A deficiency.
Zinc Supplement Benefits
Zinc is a necessary component for the proper growth and maintenance of our bodies. You can find it in various foods, mostly meats, seafood, nuts, whole grains, dairy products, and legumes.
As stated earlier, zinc performs many vital functions for our bodies to keep us in good health. Lucky for us, we don’t only have to rely on specific foods to get a good daily dose of zinc. We’ve got a good variety of dietary supplements that can come in handy if you’re looking to boost your zinc intake.
Our bodies need zinc in order to activate T lymphocytes, also known as T cells. T cells help our bodies control and regulate immune responses and attack infected or cancerous cells. For these cells to work properly, we need to have a sufficient daily zinc intake.
The use of zinc supplements can also help prevent diarrhea, which can be a very serious condition if it gets out of hand. The daily use of zinc can not only help treat diarrhea but also act as a defense against future recurrence of the condition.
Research has shown that zinc also plays a big part in regulating the way neurons communicate with each other. This has a direct impact on how memories are formed and how efficiently we learn.
Zinc is a strong contender against the common cold, too. The duration of a cold can be shortened by up to 40 percent with the use of zinc lozenges.
When it comes to maintaining the integrity and structure of your skin, zinc is a key player. Patients with ulcers or chronic wounds often have a metabolism deficient of zinc and lower serum zinc levels. Zinc is a common ingredient in skin creams used for treating diaper rashes and other irritations of the skin. Topical zinc might even stimulate the healing of leg ulcers by decreasing the growth of bacteria and inflammation while enhancing re-epithelialization. When applied to wounds, zinc doesn’t just correct zinc deficits locally but acts pharmacologically as well. Still, research hasn’t shown consistently that the use of zinc sulfate is 100 percent effective in improving the healing rate of wounds and ulcers.
Improving your intake of zinc through supplements and diet can also reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases. It’s been known for a long time now that zinc has a large role in immune function. Zinc deficiency has also been linked to an increase in inflammation in chronic diseases as well as triggering entirely new inflammatory processes.
Zinc works against cellular damage in the retina. This helps delay the progression of vision loss and AMD.
Having low sperm quality has also been linked with zinc deficiencies.
Zinc can also be of assistance in treating acne, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), osteoporosis, and in preventing and treating pneumonia.
It’s important to keep track of how much zinc you take, as too much zinc can be unhealthy for you. Overdoing it might suppress copper absorption, and excess in zinc can lead to nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach pains, headaches, and diarrhea.
Also, beware of taking zinc along with other medications. Be sure not to take zinc supplements along with antibiotics, as the zinc supplements will combat how much antibiotic your body will absorb.
Why Do We Need Zinc?
A lack of zinc in your diet can lead to unpleasant symptoms like a loss of appetite, stunted growth, and impaired immune function. If zinc deficiency gets more serious, it can cause impotence, hair loss, diarrhea, hypogonadism in males, weight loss, taste abnormalities, mental lethargy, as well as eye and skin lesions. Most of these conditions are rather non-specific and can be associated with a number of other conditions, so it’s important to go for a medical examination to be sure that the cause of these symptoms is indeed a zinc deficiency.
The nutritional status of zinc is hard to measure efficiently with laboratory tests because of its distribution throughout the body as a component of certain nucleic acids and proteins. Serum zinc levels are the most common indicators used to evaluate zinc deficiencies, but these levels aren’t necessarily an accurate reflection of cellular zinc status because of tight homeostatic control mechanisms. Due to these reasons, physicians will consider various risk factors when determining whether or not you need zinc supplementation, such as alcoholism, inadequate caloric intake, and digestive diseases.
Digestive disorders and gastrointestinal surgery may decrease the ability or absorb zinc while increasing endogenous zinc losses mostly from the gastrointestinal tract, and some losses in zinc from the kidney. Chronic liver disease, Malabsorption syndrome, sickle cell disease, chronic renal disease, diabetes, malignancy, and other chronic illnesses are all associated with zinc deficiency.
A vegetarian diet is significantly lower in zinc, as the highest sources of zinc come from meat, and thus, vegetarians must pay close attention to their zinc intake through supplements and other means. Certain cooking techniques can be used to increase the bioavailability of zinc in foods. Soaking seeds, grains, and beans in water for a few hours and allowing them to sit until sprouts form before cooking them is one very useful technique. Leavened grain products (like bread) can help vegetarians boost their zinc intake since leavening partially breaks the phytate down which allows the body to absorb more zinc.
Pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing a zinc deficiency, especially those who already have a marginal zinc status at the early stages of pregnancy. Lactation and high fetal requirements can deplete a new mother’s zinc storages.
Breastfeeding older infants exclusively can also lead to zinc deficiency. Breast milk provides 2 mg of zinc a day, which is enough zinc for babies up to 4-6 months old. It is not, however, enough for older children, who require 3 mg a day. Because of this, it’s important for babies older than 6 months to consume age-appropriate food with sufficient zinc content.
Individuals with sickle cell disease are also susceptible to zinc deficiency, possibly because of poor nutritional status or increased nutrient requirement. Zinc deficiency affects about 60-70 percent of adults that have sickle cell disease.
Ethanol consumption significantly decreases the absorption of zinc in the intestines and increases urinary zinc excretion. Because of this, between 30-50 percent of alcoholics suffer from zinc deficiency. Most alcoholics have limited consumption of food, which also contributes to the deficiency.
All in all, zinc is essentially a cornerstone of good health and is a very important part of your diet. If you recognize or are experiencing any of the symptoms you read about in this article, then consult your physician and get advice on whether you should increase your intake of zinc through your diet or through dietary supplements.