Zinc: Benefits, Deficiency, Side Effects, and Sources
Zinc is an essential trace element. The body does not naturally produce Zinc, thus it has to be obtained externally. However, most people don’t consider zinc to be as necessary as it is and are unaware of the long-term risks of zinc deficiency. It is critical for the development and function of immune cells. It also helps in the overall functioning and metabolism of the body.
Benefits of Zinc
1. Boosts Immunity
Zinc strengthens the immune system as it helps in the development of cells that conciliate immunity. Lack of zinc in the body can make one highly vulnerable and receptive to infections and diseases.
Adequate amounts of zinc in the body can potentially reduce the severity of symptoms and even the time scale of the illness. It keeps inflammation under check and influences how our cells respond to infections.
2. Enhances Memory
Zinc has been known to reduce the pace of memory loss and to even prevent it entirely. It plays a key role in regulating spatial learning and enhancing cognitive learning, especially in adolescents.
3. Modulates Wound Healing
Zinc plays a major role in improving overall cellular metabolism. It nurtures and maintains the structure of dermal tissues and other membranes.
It follows a step-by-step approach in healing wounds. It regulates membrane repair, scar formation, reduces wound debris, and tissue re-epithelization. Since it builds a strong immune system, wound infections are easily avoided. Zinc supplements are also highly effective for people suffering from skin/mouth ulcers.
4. Sexual Benefits
Zinc has a crucial role in reproductive processes:
- It helps in the production and regulation of many hormones, including testosterone. It is vital for the growth of male sex organs.
- Dietary zinc has been known to impact sexual competency. Appropriate levels of zinc ensure good sexual health and a desirable sex drive.
- It enables the creation of prostatic fluid and helps in the maintenance of the prostate gland.
- Its deficiency can cause erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Zinc supplements can potentially cure ED and increase ejaculation time.
Also Read: More Sexual Benefits Of Zinc
5. Positively Impacts Aging
Zinc affects immunological changes during aging. With an increase of age, the susceptibility to even minor infections increases. The competency of the immune system also decreases. The lack of zinc in the daily diet of an elderly person can deteriorate intestinal absorption and also lead to diabetes. Adequate zinc intake boosts immunological activities in the body, which is beneficial during old age.
6. Treats Diarrhea
Due to improper protein synthesis and cell growth, children tend to suffer from diarrhea. Zinc can increase antibodies and can accelerate the growth rate in children.
Zinc supplementation along with oral re-hydrating solutions can decrease the frequency and acuteness of diarrheal episodes.
7. Maintains Skin Integrity
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Zinc can prevent scarring and acne. Zinc therapy can also be used to treat leprosy. It provides the dietary defense to the largest organ- the skin. It can help heal and rejuvenate the skin and even slow down the visible effects of aging.
8. Aids Blood Sugar Control
Zinc promotes insulin secretions and can help keep blood sugar under check. It provides major relief to diabetic people and can efficiently maintain the body’s required levels of insulin.
Zinc deficiency can be caused by low dietary intake, inadequate absorption of the mineral when consumed, or due to chronic disease.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency can be:
- Loss of appetite
- Low Insulin levels
- Hair loss
- Poor sense of taste and smell up
The conditions with which zinc deficiency is characterized are non-specific and might be linked with other health issues. Thus, it is vital to get tested for zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiencies are rare but prominent at an earlier phase itself. If these are ignored, there can be more threatening symptoms such as:
- Slow sexual maturation
- Growth retardation
- Lesions of eye and skin
- Weight loss
- Impotence, in males
Side Effects of Zinc
- When prescribed and consumed in healthy amounts, zinc supplements or dietary zinc can be helpful in solving a number of health issues. Although, excess zinc has been associated with nausea, diarrhea, stomach ache, vomiting.
- Surpassing 40-50 mg of Zinc consumption in a day can cause more chronic side-effects and also, flu-like symptoms. Excess consumption can interfere with other body processes like the absorption of copper in the body. Thus, zinc can lead to a deficiency of important minerals in the body.
- Taking Zinc with antibiotics might affect the absorption of antibiotics in the body, thus, making it vulnerable to infections. To avoid the reduction of effectiveness, it is advised to take antibiotics 2-3 hours before the Zinc supplements or after 6 hours of taking the supplements.
- Zinc in lozenge or intranasal form can be the cause of permanent loss of smell, bad taste, and frequent nausea. Zinc particles can directly affect the olfactory and even gustatory receptors.
Dietary Sources of Zinc
Since the body doesn’t store zinc, it is necessary to fulfill the requirements with food sources. Eating a healthy and zinc-rich balanced diet can easily take care of the body’s need for Zinc.
- Red meat is an excellent source of zinc. It can be found in beef, lamb, and pork abundantly. It is advisable to eat unprocessed meat as the consumption of processed red meat is directly linked to heart diseases.
- Oysters are storehouses of zinc. Other shellfish are also packed with zinc and several minerals. Due to a low-calorie count, these are extremely healthy and beneficial.
- Sea-foods, especially crabs and lobsters are great sources of zinc. Even adding little amounts of these can positive changes in your bodily conditions.
- Kale, spinach, mushrooms, and peas are vegetarian zinc sources. If you’re looking for a low-calorie diet, these are must-haves.
- Zinc-rich fruits include cantaloupes, blueberries, peaches, and guavas. Pomegranates and kiwi fruits also provide a decent amount of zinc along with other minerals.
- Adding legumes like lentils, beans, pulses, and chickpeas to the daily diet can be really beneficial. Hummus and sesame seeds are also highly zinc-packed sources, especially for vegans.
Cases of zinc toxicity or irrationally high amounts of it in the body are relatively rare. However, zinc deficiency is a global health issue with over 2 billion people suffering from it.
Zinc is present in trace amounts in the blood which is why its deficiency is difficult to detect without a blood test. It is vital to know what your body is lacking so that adequate measures and supplements can be taken.
Maintaining a mineral-rich diet can easily prevent such deficiencies and thus, makes us resistant and not vulnerable to a range of infections and diseases.
June 17, 2020 Sam Bell