I was recently approached by several people who asked about the importance of Zinc in their diet. They were prompted by friends to take a Zinc supplement but had no idea as to why they should or what benefits Zinc could offer. Let’s delve into what the powerful micro-nutrient, Zinc, can do for your health:
What is Zinc?
Zinc is a trace element that our body needs to regulate our immune system through the recruitment of powerful anti-inflammatory phagocytes (Pac-men the gobble up bad bacteria), it acts as a powerful anti-oxidant that quells oxidative stress and it can assist in regulating female and male hormones.
What are the greatest sources of Zinc?
Zinc is predominately found in high protein foods such as red-meats and seafood. Despite legumes and grains containing a large amount of Zinc, they also have high levels of phytic acid. This organic acid chelates (binds) to Zinc, reducing its ability to be absorbed through the GI tract, thus making legumes and grains a poorer source of this essential mineral.
Who is at risk of developing a Zinc deficiency?
- Vegans and vegetarians
- Females who are on the pill. The pill has been known to interfere with Zinc’s role of regulating progesterone and oestrogen levels.
Optimal levels of Zinc:
According to the Australian Nutritional Guidelines, the optimal level of Zinc for male and female adults over 21 yrs is 40 mg daily. Children between 13-21 yrs old should be aiming for 25 mg-30 mg daily. The optimal serum level of Zinc is 10-16 micromol/L (the closer to 16 micromol/L, the better).
Health benefits of Zinc
- Zinc assists in the production of Ceruoplasmin and Metallothionein; two important proteins that act as taxi’s for Copper to be delivered into the Mitochondria to produce ATP (energy).
- Zinc can aid in reducing the severity and frequency of colds. It does so by binding to specific proteins in the endothelial layer of your nose; inhibiting the build up of mucus and bacteria.
- Zinc acts as a powerful anti-oxidant. Studies have shown that optimal levels of Zinc reduces oxidative stress markers such as Adhesion molecules, Cytokines, Interkeukin and alpha tumour necrosis factor (all of which are signs that inflammation is occurring in the body).
- It balances hormone levels. Zinc has been shown to increase serum testosterone levels in males by aiding the conversion of andotestosterone to testosterone. This can help with muscle growth and repair. Zinc also regulates progesterone and oestrogen which have an impact on a females menstruation cycle and fertility.
- Zinc assists in combating diabetes. Zinc can balance insulin levels by binding to it in the pancreas and slowly releasing it into the blood when your sugar levels rise.
- Zinc greatly helps with your gut health (in particular, with Leaky Gut). Studies have shown that optimal amounts of Zinc reduce intestinal permeability. This is especially useful for people who experience severe diarrhoea which may indicate they have a leaky gut (intestinal permeability).
- Zinc assists in the breakdown of proteins to amino acids and helps unlock the “energy” from carbohydrates. If you have low energy levels, it may indicate that you have sub-optimal Zinc levels.
- It supports liver health. Zinc assists in cell division and the repair of liver cells. This is extremely important as our liver is a work horse that functions by cleaning out all the toxins in our body.
Signs of Zinc deficiency
- Weight loss (possibly due to Leaky Gut) or weight gain (possibly due to hypothyroidism)
- Hair loss. Zinc is an important mineral in the production of T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones). Low Zinc levels can reduce T3/T4 levels, leading to hair loss.
- Constantly feeling under the weather/run-down. Experiencing colds and flues on a regular basis.
- Experiencing severe allergic reactions. Low Zinc (and Calcium and Magnesium) levels can result in higher levels of histamine in your body. This is a pro-inflammatory molecule that leads to the redness and swelling associated with hay-fever and other allergies.
Look for a Zinc supplement that is in the chelated form. Supplements such as Zinc gluconate, Zinc glycinate and Zinc citrate are great sources of Zinc due to their bio-availability (increased absorption ability). I am a big believer of taking a high quality multi-mineral/vitamin as the function of all minerals are interlinked (deficiencies in one mineral can cause deficiencies in others).
This is information that I have gathered from journal articles and my experience. Please seek advice from a holistic GP to determine what is best for your health.
Please contact Dr. Daniel Lombardo for more information or any questions about the benefits of Zinc supplementation.