Zinc is a very important mineral for the body. However, the only way to get it is through food, since it’s present in the body in very small amounts.
This micro-nutrient is essential for human life and a deficiency can cause serious health problems. In this article, we’ll tell you about the properties and benefits of zinc.
What are the properties of zinc?
In order to talk about the characteristics of this mineral, we need to take a short journey.
In 1963, Dr Prasad realised that patients with anaemia – suffering from an iron deficiency – responded well to treatments that included a zinc supplement.
The majority of this micro-nutrient is absorbed by the small intestine. Then, it’s transported to the liver. From there, it’s distributed throughout the body.
Zinc is included in the group the “100 most important enzymes.” It helps with the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, the production of insulin, and improving the immune system.
It also works to get rid of free radicals in the body to maintain elasticity of the skin (20% of the mineral is retained in the skin).
Overall, 85% of the total is deposited in:
- The iris
Zinc is removed by bile, intestinal and pancreatic fluids, and mainly in stool.
It’s important to know that excessive consumption of legumes and refined grains can inhibit the complete absorption of this mineral.
Also, your zinc levels can be affected if you have:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Kidney problems
- Stress (this reduces zinc levels three times quicker than any other condition)
A necessary nutrient
Having low levels of zinc corresponds to an increased risk of illness. The daily recommended dose of zinc for women is 8 mg and 11 mg for men.
However, there are certain groups who require a greater amount each day:
- Babies and children
- Malnourished or people with poor diets
- Pregnant and lactating women
- Older people
- Vegetarians and vegans
- People who have recently had an operation
- Patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or poor intestinal absorption
- People with a weakened immune system
A zinc deficiency in your diet is a serious problem these days due to the type food and lifestyle that many of us have.
For example, you might only eat seeds or monoculture grains (the earth contains no zinc), ingest a lot of medication (diuretics, blood pressure drugs or anti-acids) or have a highly unbalanced routine.
It’s important to know that a lack of zinc can cause:
- Frequent colds and flu
- Chronic fatigue
- Growth and development problems in children
- Mood swings
- Learning problems and low academic achievement
- Memory loss
- Vision problems
When a zinc deficiency is chronic, it can cause:
- Memory problems
- Sight, smell, and taste problems
- White spots on the nails (a sign you shouldn’t ignore)
How does zinc help?
This micro-nutrient has various functions. Because of this, you shouldn’t take its role in your body lightly. The benefits we enjoy when we consume zinc in the correct amounts include:
Reduced risk of cancer
Although zinc is no cure for cancer, it can significantly reduce your risk of developing it.
This is because this mineral is involved in cellular replication. A deficiency can cause the formation of tumors. Furthermore, since it’s involved in the immune system, it has the ability to get rid of harmful cells.
A lack of zinc means that the body has to compensate for it with another similar compound.
The problem is that the most similar are cadmium and mercury (found in many foods that you can find at the supermarket). However, these elements are linked to the development of cancer.
Growth and Development
Zinc plays a big part in the growth of children, since it plays a role in the formation and mineralisation of bones and reproductive organs.
It’s also necessary for treating osteoporosis (the diet must also include calcium, manganese, and copper) and for getting rid of plaque from teeth.
Better health in men
Zinc prevents the production of a derivative of testosterone. When the levels of this derivative are high, there is an increased risk of prostate cancer.
The complete opposite happens when the body has right amount of zinc. Not only this, but a lack of zinc is related to erectile dysfunction and libido problems.
Some people who have high cholesterol and a high percentage of triglycerides in their blood should consume foods rich in zinc to help keep their arteries clean.
It’s also recommended for patients who have suffered heart attacks, as well as other cardiovascular problems.
A strengthened immune system
Scientists have demonstrated that zinc strengthens and develops the body’s defence system. It helps prevent harmful cells from entering the body and, if they do, makes sure that they’re neutralised.
At the same time, it works in the healing of wounds and prevents many viral or bacterial illnesses (such as colds).
If you’ve been feeling very tired and weak, maybe you should take a look at the amount of zinc that you’re consuming. Fatigue is another symptom associated with a zinc deficiency.
When you’re in bed with the flu, it’s be good to increase your dose to shorten the length of time that you’re ill.
It improves hair, skin, and nails
As well as helping to heal wounds more quickly, zinc is also involved in the development and strengthening of the skin.
A deficiency can cause your skin to peel, or cause psoriasis, frequent bruising (and they take a long time to disappear) acne, and eczema. An absence of zinc, or low levels, are also related to premature aging of the skin and the reappearance of herpes simplex.
More properties of zinc
As if everything we’ve previously mentioned wasn’t enough, there are even more properties of zinc that are worth knowing. Zinc:
- Fights against age-related macular degeneration.
- Improves taste and smell.
- Treats Wilson’s disease (a build-up of copper in the body).
- Increases the production of estrogen in women.
- Improves sensitivity to insulin.
- Helps absorb nutrients better, improves stomach acid, and alleviates diarrhea.
- Develops the nervous system and reduces the possibility of suffering Alzheimer’s disease.
- Balances the acid-alkaline levels in the blood.
- Protects the liver.
- Reduces tinnitus (buzzing in the ears).
What are the most important sources of zinc?
Now you know that zinc is really important, you can find it in:
- Fish, oysters, and shellfish
- Offal (in particular liver)
- Seeds (pumpkin, sesame)
- Wheat germ and cereals (brown rice, oats, and rye)
- Legumes (chickpeas, lentils)
- Bee pollen
- Leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, Brussels sprouts)