Among the many trace elements that your body uses to stay in top shape, zinc is a star.  It aids wound healing, the immune and reproductive systems, boosts liver function and the sense of smell and taste. Zinc is found throughout the body, but it plays an especially important role in the prostate gland and reproductive organs both of which require zinc to develop and function properly.  Zinc is important for maintaining a healthy prostate. In fact, zinc is often part of the treatment when any sort of prostate disorder is encountered, and getting healthy amounts of zinc can prevent prostate damage before it starts – damage which can, if left unchecked, lead to a variety of illnesses including prostate cancer.

Zinc is vital in the production of healthy sperm. It protects the DNA inside the reproductive cells and helps prevent their breakdown. While still in the male body, zinc acts as a sort of tranquilizer for the sperm, preventing them from expending too much energy.  When the sperm enters the female reproductive tract, the zinc quickly dissipates, allowing a burst of energy to help propel the sperm to its goal of fertilization.  Healthy zinc levels also help sperm maintain the enzymes needed to penetrate an ovum during that fertilization.

Having a healthy zinc intake is also important for maintaining healthy skin. Several research studies have shown that zinc is effective for helping to treat acne, pimples, and even more serious skin disorders like eczema.

The main job of zinc is to help your white blood cells, your bodies natural infection-fighters, to do their job. This includes skin infections that result from wounds. Zinc is used to treat many skin wounds, including bed sores, skin ulcers, cold sores, canker sores, surgical incisions and burns. Besides fighting infections, zinc is also important in your body’s production of the connective tissue collagen. It is also supports the enzymes that allow your flesh to heal.

Some research on natural therapies rank it with vitamin C when it comes to fighting off a cold or the flu. Children with adequate zinc intake also seem to be less likely to suffer from respiratory illnesses.

Zinc also helps the cells in your body communicate by functioning as a neurotransmitter. A deficiency in zinc can lead to stunted growth, diarrhea, impotence, hair loss, eye and skin lesions, impaired appetite, and depressed immunity.  Conversely, consuming too much zinc can disrupt absorption of copper and iron, as well as create large amounts of toxic free radicals.   

Zinc is also key to high cognitive function in more than one way. Studies have shown that consuming zinc increases cognition and memory. First, the mineral teams with vitamin b6 to ensure that neurotransmitters in your brain properly function. Also, high concentrations of zinc are found in the mossy fiber system of the hippocampus, which is the brain’s center of thought and memory. Supplemental zinc can be especially useful to improve the cognition of people recovering from injury, as the body diverts zinc from the brain to help heal bodily trauma.

Zinc is extremely necessary to your good health. It contains many hidden health benefits and is essential to the smooth running of almost every aspect of the human body.  For optimum health, make sure zinc is a daily part of your diet.

What are deficiency symptoms for zinc?

Because of the link between zinc and the taste-related protein called gustin, impaired sense of taste and/or smell are common symptoms of zinc deficiency. Depression, lack of appetite, growth failure in children, and frequent colds and infections can also be symptomatic of insufficient dietary zinc.

What foods provide zinc?

Zinc is very much associated with protein foods. Thus, you may assume that most foods high in zinc are protein-rich as well. The best sources of zinc include beef, lamb, pork, crabmeat, turkey, chicken, lobster, clams and salmon.

Good zinc food sources aside from meats are dairy products such as milk and cheese, yeast, peanuts, beans, and wholegrain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potato and yogurt. Of all these vegetarian zinc foods, pumpkin seeds offer one of the most concentrated non-meat food sources of zinc.

REFERENCES:

Festa MD, Anderson HL, Dowdy RP, et al. Effect of zinc intake on copper excretion and retention in men. Am J Clin Nutr 1985;41:285-292 1985.

Groff JL, Gropper SS, Hunt SM. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. West Publishing Company, New York, 1995.

Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nicket, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc.  Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.

National Research Council. Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1989. 1989.

Wintergerst, ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH, Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function, Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51:301-23.

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