Zinc is a trace mineral that is very important for our overall health and wellbeing having a multitude of functions and potential uses, yet is largely underrated in its importance particularly by the Western Medical Profession. Unfortunately, there is virtually no zinc in Australian soil as it has been removed with the high use of super-phosphate fertilizers and stripped from our food due to processing and manufacturing.
Zinc must be consumed each day as there is no particular ‘storage system’ for it in the body and depletion in this mineral can produce a variety of symptoms. Only small traces of zinc are found in the body – approximately 2.0 to 2.5 grams in total.
Zinc absorption might vary from 12% to 59% of ingested zinc depending on the individuals GUT health, their stomach acid concentrations and how much their body needs at the time. In the body the 2.0-2.5gm of zinc is stored in the tissues however predominantly in skeletal muscle and bone (85%). The next concentrated tissues are the heart, spleen, lungs, brain, adrenal glands and the retina of the eye. The skin contains a good amount of zinc but in fewer concentrations than other tissues. Zinc is also found in teeth, hair and nails and hence why this mineral is so important in the health and maintenance of these tissues.
Zinc is essential for normal growth and development, the maintenance of body tissues, sexual function, skin healing and repair, immune system function and the detoxification of chemicals and metabolic irritants. Carbohydrate metabolism is influenced by zinc and it is required in the synthesis of DNA, which aids in the body’s healing process. Zinc is also essential along with Vitamin C to reduce healing time following surgery or burns and many prostate issues.
Lets now look at the benefits of Zinc in more detail.
Health Benefits of Zinc
Immune Support : Zinc helps activate immune cells in the body. Having low zinc levels may make you more susceptible to pathogens and hence prone to illness (think colds, influenza etc). Zinc improves antibody response and cell mediated immunity by helping regulate the function of the white blood cells.
Diarrhoea Prevention: Zinc may help treat and prevent mild diarrhoea in individuals. It is assumed that this is due to the infection-fighting nature of zinc in the body.
Learning and Memory Support: Research conducted in America states that zinc plays an important role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another in the brain. This in turn affects how memories are formed and how we learn.
Hormone Balancing: Zinc plays an important role in hormone production, including increasing testosterone naturally. Zinc is important to male sex organ function and reproductive fluids. It may also help female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) and is also involved in both the creation and release of eggs.
Cardiovascular Health: Zinc is required to help maintain the health of cells in the cardiovascular system, while also lowering inflammation and oxidative stress. It helps maintain heart health by supporting healthy circulation and cholesterol levels in the body.
Liver Health: Zinc can help with a liver cleanse to reduce inflammation within the liver, reduces free radical damage, helps with nutrient absorption in the GUT and allows for proper waste elimination.
Muscle Growth and Repair: Zinc plays a crucial role in both cell division and growth. This means that zinc helps repair and grow muscle by allowing the body to heal itself and maintain strength within the muscular and skeletal systems. Zinc also has an anti-inflammatory function especially within the muscles and joints and artery lining.
Vitamin A Levels + Skin Health: Zinc is thought to help utilize and maintain Vitamin A levels within the body. Vitamin A along with Zinc are essential in mucus membrane health, skin cell health and thus may be helpful in generating new skin following burns and injury. Via zinc’s function of assisting collagen production, zinc may also improve wound healing. Zinc aids skin’s oil gland function and as a result will assist in the maintenance and repair of acne conditions. Please note white spots on the nails aren’t related to a calcium deficiency as many may think, they are in fact related to a zinc deficiency.
Digestive Health: Zinc plays a role in digestion, in particular protein digestion. Zinc also has a role in insulin activity and a deficiency in the mineral has been found to be related to a lack of taste sensations.
Antioxidant Function: It is now known that Zinc has some antioxidant properties being part of superoxide dismutase, which helps protect cells from free radical damage. Through this antioxidant role zinc is also beneficial in cell membrane structure and function.
Food Sources of Zinc: Overall most animal food sources have adequate levels of zinc. Oysters are especially high with 10 times the amount of other sources.
Other sources: beef, lamb, pork, liver, herring, blueberries, capsicum, egg yolks, ginger, seafood, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, whole grains, rye, oats, yeast. Note that grains have most of their zinc content stripped because of manufacturing.
Daily Requirement Levels
0-6 months 2.0mg
7-12 months 3mg
1-3 years 3mg
4-8 years 4mg
Boy’s 9-13 years 6mg
14-18 years 13 mg
Girl’s 9-13 years 6mg
14-18 years 7mg
Pregnancy and lactating 12mg
The above nutrient reference levels for Australians and New Zealand are according to the Australian Government National Health and Medical Reference Council.
However, the majority of practitioner only Zinc supplements for adults have 25-30 + mg of zinc which is much superior level for optimal health and wellbeing. Taking zinc 2 hours away from meals or first thing in the morning increases absorption levels. It is particularly important to avoid taking zinc along side a meal of oats and other grains as the phytates and fibres in the grain reduce absorption.
If you are suffering from any of the above aliments definitely think ZINC!!! Seek the help of a professional natural medicine practitioner to get the right advice and supplement requirement. Practitioner supplements unlike those found in supermarkets are at therapeutic level.