In today’s world, we are exposed to many chemicals that have been linked to severe diseases such as cancer and heart disease. However, Zinc is an essential mineral for maintaining optimal health. Learn more about the Health Benefits of Zinc here!
Many people are not aware that Zinc is one of the essential minerals for our health. It’s an essential mineral, and it is required by almost every cell in the body. Zinc deficiency may cause various health problems, including immune system weakness, skin rashes, diarrhea, hair loss, and more. This article will explain all about Zinc and its importance for our health.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is a trace element found naturally in soil. The human body needs only tiny amounts of Zinc to survive. It is present in meat, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Zinc is an essential mineral in the body. It is necessary for more than 300 enzymes, including those involved in protein synthesis, DNA replication, cell division, and immune system function. Zinc deficiency has been linked to several health problems, including poor growth, impaired wound healing, impaired immunity, altered taste perception, reduced cognitive ability, and increased susceptibility to infections.
Health Benefits of Zinc
Zinc is necessary for hundreds of functions in the body. These include:
Immune System Function and Disease
The immune system is the body’s defense against foreign substances, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other microorganisms. The immune response may be classified into two general categories: innate immunity, immediately upon exposure to a pathogen, and acquired immunity, which develops more slowly after repeated exposure to an antigen. Acquired immunity includes both humoral immunity and cell-mediated immunity. Humoral immunity involves the production of antibodies that bind with antigens, thereby neutralizing or eliminating them. Cell-mediated immunity consists of destroying infected cells by lymphocytes, macrophages, natural killer cells, and neutrophils.
Innate immunity is based on recognition of conserved microbial structures like “pathogen-associated molecular patterns.” PAMPs have been recognized via germline-encoded pattern recognition receptors, including Toll-like receptors, C-type lectin receptors, NOD-like receptor family members, RIG-I-like receptors, and AIM2-like receptors.
Zinc is an essential mineral that helps your body defend itself against bacteria and viruses. It also plays a role in cell division and growth. Zinc deficiency can lead to weakened immunity and an increased risk for infection.
Our immune systems rely on Zinc to fight off infections. Without adequate levels of Zinc, the immune system cannot work effectively.
Zinc plays a vital role in nerve function and is essential for growth, development, reproduction, and immune response. It helps regulate the transmission of signals between nerves. If you don’t get enough Zinc, your nervous system can malfunction, causing symptoms like muscle aches and fatigue. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired cognitive functions, learning disabilities, and behavioral changes.
The most common cause of zinc deficiency is dietary insufficiency; other causes include gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, malabsorption syndromes like cystic fibrosis, short bowel syndrome, and chronic diarrhea due to medications or infections, and systemic illnesses including anorexia nervosa, cancer, and HIV infection. The prevalence of zinc deficiency varies widely between countries and populations. In the United States, it has been estimated that 10% of children are affected by zinc deficiency. A study from Saudi Arabia reported that 40% of schoolchildren were at risk of zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency may be present in both developing and developed countries.
Blood clotting also relies on Zinc. Inadequate levels of Zinc can slow down blood clotting making us prone to bleeding.
Zinc helps to maintain the skin’s integrity and mucosal surfaces. It helps maintain the integrity of mucosal membranes and skin. Patients suffering from chronic leg ulcers suffer from poor zinc metabolism and low Zinc levels in the blood, and doctors often treat skin ulcers using zinc supplements.
In some cases, people who suffer from chronic leg ulcers may benefit from taking zinc supplements. However, there isn’t enough evidence to prove whether zinc supplementation reduces the risk of developing venous stasis ulcerations.
Acute diarrhea is linked to the highest mortality rates among children living in countries that are developing. The most common cause of death is diarrhea in children. Zinc deficiency can cause changes in the immune system that may cause an increase in susceptibility illnesses, including those that cause diarrhea, particularly in children.
Studies have shown that malnourished kids in India, Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia experience shorter diarrhea courses caused by infectious diseases when they take zinc supplements. The children who participated in these studies consumed four to 40 mg of Zinc each day in zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, or zinc sulfate.
Additionally, findings from an analysis of studies that have been conducted in controlled, randomized studies of zinc supplementation in the developing world show that zinc supplementation can help decrease the severity and duration of diarrhea among zinc-deficient or other malnourished children. Similar findings were also reported in a meta-analysis that was published in 2008, as well as in an analysis of zinc supplementation to prevent and treat diarrhea. The effects of supplementing with Zinc on diarrhea in children who have good zinc status like most kids living in America, United States, are not evident.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF have now recommended brief zinc supplements (20 mg zinc daily, and 10 mg for babies younger than 6 months for a period of 10 to 14 for 14 days) to treat severe diarrhea in children.
Researchers have proposed that Zinc may help reduce the duration and severity of cold-related symptoms by directly blocking rhinovirus binding and replication in the nasal mucosa and suppressing inflammation. While studies investigating the effects of zinc therapy on cold symptoms have yielded some conflicting results, Zinc is generally believed to be beneficial in certain conditions. Several studies described where Zinc is administered as a lozenge or zinc-containing syrup that temporarily “sticks” inside the throat and mouth. It allows the Zinc comes into contact with rhinoviruses in these regions.
In a double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial, 50 participants (within one hour of acquiring an illness known as the common cold) were given the zinc acetate lozenge (13.3 milligrams zinc) or placebo for 2-3 hours after awakening. In comparison to the placebo, zinc lozenges significantly reduced the duration of the cold symptoms (cough nasal discharge and muscles aches) (muscle aches, nasal discharge, and cough).
Based on a different clinical study involving 273 participants who had been experimentally infected with colds, Zinc Lozenges containing gluconate (providing 13.3 mg of Zinc) significantly decreased time to illness compared with placebo.
In both studies, neither Zinc nor placebo affected the length of time someone was sick. But taking Zinc reduced the number of days when people were bothered by their symptoms — for example, coughing, sneezing, runny noses, sore throats, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, fever, chills, etc.
In 77 people suffering from mild common colds that were natural; a mixture consisting of Zinc gluconate nasal spray as well a zinc-based lozenge containing 37 milligrams of Zinc per dose every two to three hours awake time did not show any difference in the number of people who had symptoms at day 7 compared to placebo.
Of 14 placebo-controlled, randomized trials that were carried out, five showed positive results when treating patients with zinc lozenges; two did not show any benefit from zinc lozenge therapy; three found no difference between treatments, and four reported negative findings.
The Cochrane study concluded that “zinc (lozenges or syrup) assists in reducing the duration and severity of common symptoms of colds in healthy individuals when consumed within the first 24 hours following the onset symptoms”.The review’s author on the subject in 2004 also concluded that Zinc could reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms. But, more research is necessary to establish the most effective dosage, zinc formulation, and treatment duration before a general recommendation on zinc treatment for the common cold can be found.
As indicated earlier, the safety of nasal Zinc has been thrown into doubt by several cases of complaints regarding the condition known as anosmia (loss of sense of smell), often lasting or even permanent, arising from the use of nasal gels containing Zinc or sprays.
Age-related macular degeneration
In addition to consuming antioxidant foods such as fruits and vegetables, researchers have discovered that taking zinc supplements may help protect against eye diseases like Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). However, studies show that taking Zinc alone isn’t enough to keep eyes healthy; eating plenty of fruits and veggies rich in vitamins A, B6, C, D, K, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber are just as essential for protecting eyesight.
The age-related eye disease study (AREDS) showed that antioxidant supplements (500 mg vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, and fifteen mg of beta-carotene)do not prevent or delay the development of advanced macular degeneration that is a result of age. The study found that those taking the most antioxidant doses suffered more significant vision loss than those who took placebos.
After 6 years, people who consumed antioxidant supplements were less than half at the chance of developing age-related macular degeneration, compared to those who took placebo pills. The people who took Zinc and vitamin E were more likely not to get AMD.
Supplementing with Zinc alone did not affect vision loss among people at high risk for developing advanced macular degeneration (AMD). However, supplementing with Zinc may be beneficial if used in conjunction with another treatment such as lutein/zeaxanthin supplements.
Another follow-up study showed that taking vitamin C supplements reduced the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
A study published by AREDS2 showed that taking a daily supplement containing 25 milligrams of Zinc has the same protection from developing advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
However, because AREDS2 included fewer participants than the original study and less than half of these people took the low dose, researchers think this result may be preliminary.
They recommend using an AREDS formula containing at least 80 milligrams (mg) of Zinc per serving.
Zinc supplementation may be effective for slowing down AMD progression.
A Cochrane review found insufficient evidence for any antioxidant supplements to prevent AMD. Anyone with AMD should speak to their eye doctor about whether they want to use an AREDS formula that includes zinc supplements.
Interactions with copper and iron
Iron supplements may increase the risk for side effects such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, headache, dizziness, confusion, weakness, fatigue, insomnia, rash, pruritus (itching), urticaria.
Iron supplementation may be helpful for some people, but too much can cause an adverse reaction called “iron toxicity.” Taking iron supplements before eating helps prevent this problem.
Because of this, dietary supplements containing large quantities of Zinc (like those used in the AREDS trial) might have too much copper, which could cause anemia, iron deficiency, and vitamin B12 deficiencies.
Other Health Benefits of Zinc
Zinc is an essential mineral for the body. It’s needed to help keep bones strong and healthy, but it also plays a role in many other important functions, including:
- helping regulate hormones that control mood and growth
- supporting immune system function
- aiding wound healing
- promoting normal skin health
- regulating cell division and protein synthesis
- maintaining proper blood sugar levels
- protecting against infection
- preventing tooth decay
- keeping hair shiny and strong
- keeping nails strong and healthy
- improving sleep patterns
- fighting cancerous tumors
The recommended daily allowance of Zinc
The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of 15 mg for men and 13 mg for women. The average adult has about 10 mg in their body.
The Recommended Daily Allowance of Zinc is 8 mg per day for adults. However, research shows that this amount is not enough for our bodies to function correctly. We need at least 10-15 mg of Zinc daily.
The average adult needs about 10 milligrams of Zinc per day, but most people don’t get enough from their diet alone. The recommended daily amount varies depending on age, sex, pregnancy status, physical activity, and medical conditions; however, it’s generally between 11 mg and 15 mg.
The recommended daily allowance of Zinc for adults is 11mg/day. The RDA for children ages 1-3 years is 9 mg/day; 4-8 years 10 mg/day; 9-13 years 12 mg/day; 14-18 years 13 mg/day; 19+ years 14 mg/day. For pregnant women, the RDA is 15 mg/day.
Too little Zinc may cause your body to produce less collagen, which could lead to weaker bones. If you have osteoporosis, low zinc intake may increase your risk of fractures.
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
A deficiency of Zinc can result in several health problems, including:
Zinc is also essential for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes. It is used as part of enzymes that are needed to break down certain substances within the body. Zinc plays an essential role in many metabolic processes and is vital for proper immune function.
When you have a zinc deficiency, your symptoms may include:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue or weakness
- Poor digestion
- Muscle cramps
- Skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
How To Get Enough Zinc?
One cup of cooked rice contains around 9 mg of Zinc.
In addition, there are other sources of Zinc such as:
Milk – 1/3 cup of milk contains 5 mg of Zinc
Yogurt – 1/2 cup of yogurt contains 4 mg of Zinc
Nuts – 1 ounce of nuts contains 2.5 mg of Zinc
Soybeans – 1 tablespoon of soybeans contain 3 mg of Zinc
Beans – 1/4 cup of beans contains 6 mg of Zinc
Lentils – 1/2 cup of lentils contains 7 mg of Zinc
Here are some ways to ensure we get enough Zinc in our diets:
Eat Foods Rich in Zinc
Foods rich in Zinc include:
- Whole Grains
Avoid Foods That Are Low in Zinc
Food items high in Zinc but low in nutrients include:
- Canned tuna
- Deli meats
- Frozen vegetables
- Fried foods
Safety and possible side adverse effects
Oral Zinc may cause:
When Zinc is taken orally for a long time and in large doses, it may lead to copper deficiency. Low copper levels might be afflicted with neurological issues, including numbness and weak legs and arms.
The National Institutes of Health considers 40 mg of Zinc per day as the maximum dose for adults, and the recommended dose is 4 mg per day for infants less than 6 months.
Don’t use intranasal Zinc. This type of Zinc is associated with the loss of sense of smell.
In general, zinc is secure. Zinc supplements in the form of oral tablets could help people who have inadequate concentrations of Zinc. When taken shortly after symptoms of cold start, Zinc can reduce the duration of an illness.
But don’t use Zinc intranasal because it has been associated with loss of sensation of smell.
Zinc is a nutrient present all over your body that supports your metabolism and immune system function. Zinc is also essential for wound healing as well as your sense of smell and taste.
Through a diverse diet, the body has sufficient Zinc. The zinc-rich foods include red meat, chicken, and breakfast cereals fortified with Zinc.
The use of Zinc in oral form is to treat colds amongst various health benefits. However, it can reduce the efficiency of some medicines and can cause adverse unwanted side effects.