The Many Health Benefits Of Zinc
Annoyed with how often you catch the common cold or trying to prevent yourself from catching it? If you or someone you know has a stomach issue such as Chron’s, Colitis, or weight loss surgery read on about a little something necessary to our cells called zinc.
What Is Zinc?
Other than being discovered by Andreas Marggraf, (who?) zinc is a metal found here on Earth and sits on the periodic elemental table with the atomic number of thirty (again, what?). Interestingly enough, that copper looking loose change that you have in your pocket is actually made up of mostly a zinc core. Interestingly enough again, in addition to being responsible for hidden couch treasure, it’s also essential for all living things on earth.
Who cares if I don’t get enough zinc in my daily diet?
According to the International Zinc Association (IZA), in developing countries zinc is the fifth largest risk factor in causing disease in children especially when it comes to diarrhea and pneumonia and zinc deficiencies can also lead to growth retardation and delayed sexual maturation .
But I’m not a child in a developing country, does it matter?
Do you have hair loss, diarrhea, impotence, dry flaky skin, delayed wound healing, mental lethargy, unexplained weight loss, acne, brittle finger nails, or reduced taste and smell? The IZA and Mayo Clinic all list these as some of the more common symptoms of mild zinc deficiencies. Do you struggle with frequently fighting off colds? Lack of zinc could be the cause – it plays a vital role in immune function [1,2]. In fact, several studies have shown that supplementation of zinc lozanges within the first twenty-four hours of the onset of cold-like symptoms have been shown to reduce the severity and longevity of illness . Have age related macular degeneration? A small body of evidence has suggested that zinc can help to slow the progression and reduce the risk of developing the disease . Caution: there still needs to be more research done to conclude those findings, but with all that zinc is responsible for in the body it can’t hurt, right?
That’s impressive, what else does it do?
Well, as we’ve already mentioned zinc is involved with over three hundred metabolic processes. Within the cell, zinc is responsible for stabilization of cell membrane proteins, gene transcription, antioxidant defenses, DNA and RNA synthesis, immune function, and the acid base balance of the cell. Trying to add muscle mass to your frame or dealing with a hangover? Zinc also assists in alcohol metabolism and protein synthesis .
Is it a zinc deficiency or is it something else?
Pinpointing the exact cause of something like say, brittle finger nails or delayed wound healing and linking the cause to zinc can be a bit of a problem. It’s also possible that it’s one of the many other things in our diet that could be causing your ugly nails or pestering wounds, such as diabetes. Curious if you’re low on zinc? You might want to do a blood test. However, the National Institute of Health states that the accuracy is difficult to determine due to the tight homeostatic control mechanisms . You’re better off ensuring that your diet is rich in zinc related foods if you’re concerned.
How much is enough and how much is too much?
Have you had recent abdominal surgery or weight loss surgery or do you suffer from another stomach disorder such as Chron’s disease, diverticulitis, or ulcerative colitis? You may need to beef up your intake of zinc as these conditions can inhibit zinc uptake in the body . Other things that can lead to decreased zinc uptake is alcohol, people with sickle-cell anemia, and infants over six months of age that are being breastfed (breast milk does not contain enough zinc for an infant greater than six months) . Signs of zinc toxicity include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, depressed immune system function, and decreased copper levels (high intakes of zinc can affect copper absorption) .
This is where you fit in (dosages in milligrams) :
|> 70 years||11||40|
|> 70 years||8||40|
|< 18 years||12||34|
|< 18 years||13||34|
I’m getting enough zinc because I’m a vegetarian, right?
Are you proud of your vegetarian habits? Think again. Thanks to your plant friendly diet and the a certain compound called phytate (a.k.a phytic acid) can drastically decrease zinc absorption. In fact, vegetarians are recommended to increase zinc consumption of about 50% (NIH). If your vegetarian diet consists mainly of soy, peanuts, corn, wheat, oats, and legumes, you may have to rethink your diet. It also doesn’t help very much that over the last several decades the U.S.D.A has become one of the most powerful organizations. Thanks to lobbyists in the farmi`ng community and farming subsidies, the United States as a whole consumes large volumes of agriculture high in phytate levels. Unfortunately, phytic acid in these foods have been shown to decrease zinc absorption [5,6]. For a comprehensive list of foods that contain phytate go here.
So, where can we find zinc?
You’ve probably heard that oysters are one of the top potions for inducing love making with your partner. Well now if you need an excuse, tell your partner you’re just trying to look after their health. Oysters are one of the best sources for zinc out there. Here’s a breakdown of some foods containing zinc will all levels in milligrams :
(six of them)
|Sirloin Steak 4oz||7.4|
|Peanuts, 1 cup||4.8|
|Pot Roast, 3oz||4.6|
|Special K cereal, 1 cup||3.8|
|Wheat Germ, 1/4 cup||3.5|
|Lamb Chops, 3oz||2.7|
|Black-Eyed Peas, 1 cup||2.2|
|Plain Yogurt, 1 cup||2.2|
|Lean Ham, 3oz||1.9|
|Swiss Cheese, 1.5oz||1.7|
|Enriched White Rice,
Curious of where you’re eating ranks? The United States Department of Agriculture has put together a comprehensive list of hundreds of foods and their zinc contents. Check it out here. Remember, check make sure you’re not negating the effects of your food by eating foods high phytic acid levels. When in doubt, have more zinc. If you’re concerned that your zinc levels may be too low or too high, contact your primary care physician.
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6. Cederblad, A., Navert, B., Sandstrom, B. “Reduction of the phytate content of bran by leavening in bread and its effect on zinc absorption in man.” British Journal of Nutriton. 1985 Jan;53(1):47-53.
7. Singh M, Das RR. “Zinc for the common cold.” Cochrane Database Systematic Review. 2011 Feb 16, 2011. Print
8. Evans JR. “Antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements for slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration.” Cochrane Database Systematic Review. 2006. Print.
10. Hampl, Jeffry S. Wardlaw, Gordon, M. Perspectives in Nutrition. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2007. 436-439. Print.