What is Zinc?
Zinc is the second-most common trace mineral found in the human body and is one of the essential nutrients people need to stay healthy. Zinc is virtually present in all major organs, tissues and fluids but most of it (up to 83%) is to be found in skeletal muscle and bones. Over 100 specific enzymes use zinc to fulfill their natural processes and functions that aid with digestion, nerve function, and metabolism.
Since we don’t have the ability to store excess zinc, continuous dietary intake is required in order to keep everything running smoothly.
Why do you need Zinc?
1. Zinc boosts our immune system
T cells or lymphocytes need zinc to activate and help us do one of two things:
- Control and regulate immune responses
- Attack infected or cancerous cells
So needless to say, zinc deficiency can severely impair our immune system’s function.
2. Zinc supports brain health
Zinc has a crucial role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another, affecting how memories are formed and how we learn. Compared to other organs in the body, zinc concentration is highest in the brain. A 2017 study, published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, concluded that changes in zinc balance in the brain may affect conditions that include age-related cognitive decline, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Zinc plays a role in treating colds
Studies suggest that zinc tablets shorten the duration of common cold episodes by up to 40%. In addition, zinc is beneficial in reducing the severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms.
4. Zinc helps the body heal both inside and out
Zinc-dependent proteins play fundamental roles within cells, including in DNA repair. In addition, the skin’s integrity and structure both heavily rely on zinc. That’s why you’ll find zinc in most creams that treat diaper rashes or other skin irritations. A Swedish study revealed that topical zinc enhances re-epithelialization while decreasing inflammation and bacterial growth.
5. Zinc decreases the risk of developing a wide range of chronic diseases
Research revealed that maintaining optimal zinc levels through diet and supplementation may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases. We already know that zinc has a significant role in immune function and its deficiency has been linked to increased inflammation in chronic disease and triggering new inflammatory processes.
6. Zinc prevents age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Cellular damage in the retina can be prevented by regular zinc intake, which in turn delays the progression of AMD and vision loss.
7. Zinc promotes fertility in men
Several trials & studies have linked low sperm quality to low levels of zinc. One of the studies conducted in the Netherlands discovered a higher sperm count in subjects that supplemented their diet with zinc sulfate and folic acid. Zinc intake was also correlated with overall sperm quality and infertility in men.
8. Zinc treats diarrhea
Unbelievable but true is the fact that diarrhea kills over 1.5 million children under 5 every year. Zinc helps reduce diarrhea while diminishing inflammatory processes that might cause it. One study confirmed that a 10-day course of zinc tablets is an effective way of treating diarrhea and also helps prevent future flare ups of the condition.
9. Zinc keeps our senses intact
Diminished taste and a lack of smell are both associated with low levels of zinc; which automatically have a direct negative impact on appetite.
Other possible zinc uses include ADHD management, acne and osteoporosis treatments and last but not least this mineral plays an important role in preventing/treating pneumonia and other lung related afflictions.
Are you getting enough zinc?
Just so you get a general idea about the current context, research tells us 35% to 45% of adults 60 and older have a zinc intake below the necessary requirements. And those are some pretty worrying numbers.
Depending on your age and gender the amount of zinc your body needs differs.
*The Potential Impact of Zinc Supplementation on COVID-19 Pathogenesis” - Inga Wessels, Benjamin Rolles, Lothar Rink - Published online 2020 Jul 10.
But as is the case with most supplements, there is a reverse of the coin you should be aware of:
Zinc can interact with certain medications such as antibiotics, with medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes or with other supplements such as calcium.
Despite its numerous benefits, we also have to address the matter of taking too much zinc. A constant overuse can trigger adverse effects such as: nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches.
Just to avoid any inconvenience make sure you make an informed decision or consult with your personal physician before taking zinc supplements.
Zinc and COVID-19
As we speak, zinc supplements are part of most Covid19 prevention/treatment protocols around the world.
Zinc supplementation improves airways clearance, decreases viral replication, preserves antiviral immunity, attenuates the risk of hyper-inflammation, supports anti-oxidative effects and thus reduces lung damage and minimized secondary infections.
Especially older patients with chronic diseases and other COVID-19 risk groups would most likely benefit” *
The data collected so far, paints a pretty clear statistical picture:
Zinc deficient COVID-19 patients developed more complications (70.4% vs 30%) and had a prolonged hospital stay (7.9 vs 5.7 days).
Bearing all this in mind, we can conclude that – now more than ever – paying attention to and supplementing our zinc intake – if necessary – are of crucial importance. Your and your loved ones’ health and wellbeing might depend on it.
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