Zinc: The Mighty Mineral
|Article At A Glance|
Zinc is a critical trace mineral involved in various bodily functions, including immune response, growth, and cell division.
Zinc deficiency can lead to symptoms such as impaired taste and smell, emotional disturbances, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Natural food sources and supplements can help maintain optimal zinc levels, but precautions should be taken to avoid excessive supplementation and potential side effects.
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Zinc, an essential mineral that often goes unnoticed despite its significant role in supporting various bodily functions.
In this article, we will delve into the scientific benefits of Zinc, including its effects on immune function, growth, metabolism, and more.
Prepare to be amazed as we unlock the secrets behind this humble yet mighty mineral, empowering you to prioritize your health and wellness journey.
Understanding the Importance of Zinc for Human Health
Zinc is a critical trace mineral in human health for cell growth and repair, taste, immune response, cognitive function, male health and much more.
It is an essential micronutrient that’s extensively involved in protein, lipid, gene transcription, and its role within the human body is extensive in reproduction, immune function and cell replication pathways.
Below are some core areas that Zinc is involved in:
- It aids the development and activation of immune cells - helping to enhance the body's defence against infections and diseases.
- It is crucial for proper growth and development, especially during childhood and adolescence.
- It aids in cell division, DNA, and protein synthesis.
- It is a cofactor for numerous enzymes involved in various metabolic pathways.
- It helps maintain healthy skin, healing wounds, and promotes a proper sense of taste and smell.
Zinc Deficiency: Recognizing Symptoms and Identifying At-Risk Groups
Zinc is estimated to have a 48 half-life in the body, and may actually be used up faster depending on lifestyle factors such as stress or illness.
This means Zinc deficiency could be quite common in individuals not consuming enough of this essential mineral to support immune function and overall health.
Symptoms of a Zinc deficiency may include:
- Emotional lability and mental disturbances
- Impaired taste, smell, and photophobia
- GI symptoms may manifest as significant diarrhea.
- Scalp involvement may first demonstrate thinning of hair, brittle spearhead appearance of hair, or transverse striations with longitudinal splits or pseudo monilethrix.
- Delayed wound healing, conjunctivitis, and increased susceptibility to infection may also be clues.
Certain groups are at a higher risk of zinc deficiency, including vegetarians, older adults, pregnant or lactating women, and individuals with gastrointestinal disorders. Understanding these risks can help individuals take proactive measures to ensure optimal zinc levels.
Supplementing Zinc: Dietary Sources and Absorption
Foods such as seafood, lean meats, dairy products, nuts, and whole grains are excellent natural sources of Zinc. Sports supplements have become increasingly popular to increase your dietary intake of Zinc.
Popular Zinc supplements include:
The co-ingestion of phytates (substances found in plant seeds), which are natural components of plants, severely decreases intestinal zinc bioavailability and is regarded as the primary nutritional inhibitor of zinc absorption. Notably, the term phytate includes magnesium, calcium, or potassium salts of phytic acid
Overcorrection with supplementation is rare, but substantial doses can cause severe side effects, including gastric irritation, nausea, vomiting, and gastric haemorrhage. Additionally, Zinc intake competes with copper absorption, and over-treatment can lead to copper deficiency; therefore, copper levels may need to be monitored while replacing Zinc.
As an essential mineral, Zinc is pivotal in overall health, and incorporating zinc-rich foods and supplements into our diets can enhance our immune response and overall well-being. Prioritizing nutrition and making informed choices empowers individuals to take charge of their immune health and strive towards a healthier future.
Mocchegiani, E., Romeo, J., Malavolta, M. et al. Zinc: dietary intake and impact of supplementation on immune function in elderly. AGE 35, 839–860 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-011-9377-3
Maxfield L, Shukla S, Crane JS. Zinc Deficiency. [Updated 2022 Nov 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493231/
Teigen Faux, Exercise Physiologist (Honours)
Stephen Brumwell, Nutritionist (ANTA #40048) for Scientific Accuracy