As an essential mineral necessary for human health, zinc has many important functions. Per the National Institutes of Health (NIH), zinc is involved in numerous aspects of metabolism and plays an essential role in immune function, wound healing, and cell division, as well as protein and DNA synthesis. Zinc is vital for proper sense of smell and taste and the catalytic activity of hundreds of enzymes. Zinc supports many biochemical pathways, including the organ, gastrointestinal, nervous, immune, skeletal, integumentary, and reproductive systems. Additionally, zinc aids hormone production and provides support for normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence. As the second most abundant trace mineral in the body, zinc is considered one of the most important trace minerals in human nutrition.
Only a small amount of zinc is needed for critical functions and health maintenance. As the body has no specialized zinc storage system, daily replacement is required to maintain a steady state. Dietary sources of zinc include animal proteins, such as red meat, eggs, and poultry; some seafood including oysters, crab and lobster; as well as nuts, whole grains, legumes, and fortified cereal and dairy products. While it may seem that there are abundant dietary sources, not all sources contain bioavailable zinc. Zinc found in animal proteins is readily absorbed by the body, however zinc-rich vegetarian foods, including whole grains and legumes, contain phytates, which reduce zinc absorption.
Some evidence suggests that zinc intake amount in older adults may be marginal. Data analysis has found that both male and female adults over aged 60 had intakes below the average requirement. Zinc deficiency is characterized by loss of appetite, impaired immune function, and increased risk of pneumonia and infections, and may also result in hair and weight loss, intestinal distress, delayed wound healing, taste abnormalities, as well as growth retardation and sexual dysfunction. Zinc deficiency may be a result of inadequate intake, absorption issues, increased requirements or secretion. Vegetarians, in particular, require as much as 50% more of the RDA for zinc than non-vegetarians. Those with zinc insufficiency need to include good sources of zinc in their diets and may do well to consider supplementation.
Health benefits of zinc include:
- Zinc lozenges have been shown to shorten the duration of the common cold by up to 40% when taken by otherwise healthy persons with 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.
- Researchers have found that improving zinc status through diet and supplementation may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases by its significant role in inhibiting the production of inflammatory cytokines. Deficiency is linked to increased inflammation in chronic disease and the initiation of new inflammatory processes.
- Per a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology, zinc prevents cellular damage in the retina, helping to delay the progression of macular degeneration and vision loss.
- Zinc plays a significant role in the regulation of arterial blood pressure, supporting cardiovascular health.
- Zinc has been shown to be beneficial for a variety of skin conditions including acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, melasma, and dandruff, and protects against skin damage from ultraviolet light, which can cause cancer and advance skin aging.
- Zinc increases insulin sensitivity by reducing excessive pancreatic cell insulin secretion and enhancing insulin binding to its receptor. Sufficient zinc intake may help to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes due to its essential role in the processing, storage, and secretion of insulin.
- Zinc supports oral health by reducing plaque formation on teeth and lowering inflammatory processes associated with gum disease.
Sophisticated bodily systems work to keep trace minerals in a steady state of homeostasis to promote optimal cellular function. Should mineral levels of zinc, copper, iron, manganese, chromium or selenium fall, the body is stimulated to correct the imbalance by absorbing more of these nutrients from the diet. Conversely, the liver will excrete any unneeded minerals. However, a deficiency in one mineral often creates a surplus of another, as the body attempts to self-regulate. Left undetected, mineral imbalances can have devastating and chronic impacts on health.
For example, zinc and copper work synergistically to support life sustaining processes. One of the most commonly observed mineral imbalances is insufficient zinc and an excess amount of copper. While copper is crucial to enzyme and red blood cell formation, metabolism, and neurotransmitter synthesis, it needs to be consumed in a relatively narrow range and must be balanced by zinc intake to avoid the domination and suppression of other important minerals.
With the exception of calcium-rich and high-fiber foods, taking zinc supplements with food increases the body’s ability to absorb and utilize the nutrient. Avoid calcium-rich milk and dairy, as well as calcium supplements when taking zinc or eating zinc-rich foods. Calcium or iron supplements taken in conjunction with zinc will inhibit zinc absorption. As a supplement, zinc in picolinate, gluconate, citrate or orotate form appear to have the highest absorption rates.
Professional Supplement Center offers these and other fine quality products in support of optimal health:
Zinc 15 by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic product supplies 15 mg of zinc as zinc picolinate per capsule. Gluten free, Non-GMO formulation.
Zinc Lozenges 10 mg by Douglas Laboratories®: Each lozenge provides 10 mg of bioavailable zinc as zinc citrate. Sweetened with sorbitol and flavored with natural orange extracts. Soy free, vegan formulation.
Zinc Lozenge by Nutritional Frontiers: Each lozenge supplies 23 mg of zinc as zinc citrate and zinc gluconate. Natural lemon flavor. Sweetened with stevia, xylitol and honey.
Zinc Orotate by Priority One®: One vegetarian capsule provides 51 mg of zinc as zinc orotate. Preservative free.
What are the health benefits of zinc? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263176.php
Zinc in diet. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002416.htm
Zinc for the common cold. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23775705