Susan Melony shared with NIfty Benefits that Zinc may not be as commonly discussed as other vitamins and minerals, but that doesn’t devalue its importance. Zinc is a highly useful mineral that’s responsible for helping to maintain many of the functions in our bodies.
Today we’re going to tell you all the fantastic things that you might experience if you start supplementing with zinc.
The following benefits will be particularly apparent if you aren’t getting enough zinc in your diet already.
Afterward, we’ll tell you a bit about the mineral so you can learn the best ways to get it in your diet and stay safe when taking supplements. Here are the health benefits of zinc.
Nine Unbelievable Health Benefits of Zinc
1. Enhances Immunity
One of the reasons that zinc is often associated with fighting colds is because it’s an important nutrient for maintaining the health of your immune system.
In fact, zinc is more of an effective remedy than vitamin C, which isn’t actually a miraculous cold-fighting remedy as many people are led to believe.
Zinc doesn’t need to be taken for some time before it can provide serious benefits. Research has shown that it can help to eliminate symptoms of a cold if it’s administered within 24 hours of first noticing symptoms.
If you use zinc for several months, long enough to overcome any deficiencies, you will probably find yourself much less likely to develop a cold. If you are sick with an illness that has been lingering for a while, zinc may speed up your recovery.
Zinc has actually been shown to interfere with the development and production of bacteria and bacterial mucus in the nasal passages. It can even directly attach itself to receptors in the nasal passageways and attack viruses.
2. Fights Oxidation
Oxidation is the cause of a number of problems.
Firstly, it’s a natural thing that causes the aging process. Oxygen creates free radicals in the body which are basically rogue electrons that steal an electron from a neighboring atom. It layman’s terms, it basically starts a chain-reaction of degradation.
In a normal sense this happens quite slowly. But in the case of many diseases, oxidation happens so quickly that its progress can be observed quite readiy. Problems like cancer can emerge as a result of oxidation.
Zinc has been used to slow down the progress and development of cancer by fighting the related oxidative stress. This is particularly true for elderly patients because it helps them with things that they may struggle with, such as healthy cell division.
One study was done at the University of Michigan. It evaluated the effects of zinc on 50 adults. Those who took zinc scored significantly lower for markers of oxidation than those who were simply taking placebo.
3. Helps Manage Hormones
One of the most important things that zinc can do is help the body regulate its hormones. It’s often included in supplements intended to increase libido because it has a powerful effect on our sex hormones in particular.
Many people have used zinc to help enhance levels of testosterone in their body. Testosterone is often associated with men but it’s really quite important for both genders.
Zinc also impacts the production and maintenance of estrogen and can be useful for helping females create and release eggs. It’s also involved in the development of progesterone, another compound that’s quite important for female sexual health.
Problems with the levels of any of these hormones can lead to a number of different problems. People with hormonal imbalances may experience issues with physical and sexual health, changes to body weight, mood instability, and many more things.
4. Fights Diabetes
Zinc helps to balance hormones, as we have mentioned. One of the most important hormones for the human body is insulin, which is used to help process sugars that the body consumes.
Without a good level of insulin, or if a person develops an insensitivity to their insulin, they become more liable to experiencing blood sugar spikes and developing diabetes.
Zinc actually binds to insulin itself and ensures that it remains in the pancreas in appropriate amounts. It also prevents it from being released prematurely so it can be available for the bloodstream when it’s needed.
Zinc also helps the body produce and use digestive enzymes that insulin requires. These enzymes help the hormone stick to cells so the sugars can actually be used as fuel and energy by the body.
5. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Zinc is an important nutrient for maintaining our cardiovascular health. It’s a vital component of cells and is particularly useful for the cells in the blood system.
Furthermore, zinc functions as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. Inflammation and oxidation are both known to contribute to the emergence of cardiovascular problems.
The endothelium, which is basically the walls of our arteries, requires a good amount of zinc to remain strong and healthy. Without zinc, the endothelium can become weakened. The result of this can be high blood pressure or other cardiovascular problems.
Zinc can also help the body clear out excess cholesterol and cna improve blood flow around damaged veins and arteries.
6. Fights Diarrhea
One of the things that zinc deficiency is known to cause is diarrhea, among other digestive problems. If you suffer from chronic diarrhea then it’s possible that adding more zinc to your diet can help to prevent diarrhea.
Zinc has also been shown to be useful in preventing mild diarrhea that’s not caused by a deficiency. However it’s probably unwise to resort to high doses of zinc every time you get the runs.
7. Enhances Fertility and Sexual Health
We mentioned that zinc can be useful for helping to balance hormones, and one of the main reasons that people use it for this is because of its powerful ability to enhance fertility and sexual health.
By improving the amount of testosterone available to men, they develop stronger libidos. The quality of their sperm also increases, as does the volume of their emission. Limiting the amount of zinc in the diet of young men has been shown to significantly decrease levels of testosterone.
Zinc also impacts female fertility because it’s needed to help produce healthy eggs. If they don’t get any zinc then they may not develop properly and may not be suitable for producing children.
8. Helps the Body Absorb Nutrients
This is an interesting health benefit because the implications are so far-reaching.
The body requires zinc to complete its protein synthesis. It’s also a necessary nutrient to help facilitate the absorption and construction of amino acids. Furthermore, zinc helps the body break down carbs.
All of this combined means that zinc can really help you get the most out of the food that you eat. On the other hand, if you don’t get enough zinc, you may encounter problems with energy or develop difficulties maintaining your muscle mass.
9. Improves Muscle Mass
There are several mechanisms by which zinc can help you maintain and improve your overall muscle mass.
First off, zinc is important for cell division. If you’re planning to grow bigger muscles then it makes sense that you’ll need to have a body that’s capable of reproducing new, healthy cells.
As we’ve mentioned, zinc also helps the body produce and regulate testosterone. It also helps boost levels of human growth hormone, as well as insulin-like growth factor-1 (known as IGF-1 for short), all of which are involved in the process of building muscle.
Zinc is also included in many workout supplements because it helps the body with the amount of testosterone that it can actually produce after an intense workout.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is a type of metal that is vital for human health when used in miniscule quantities, much smaller than what you would find in its mineral form.
Some people are familiar with zinc as a remedy for colds, but there are far more benefits of the mineral than that. This is because zinc is present, in small quantities, in all the bodily tissues that are present in the body. It’s also used for cell division which is important for the growth, maintenance and repair of these tissues.
Furthermore, zinc acts as an antioxidant and can help to fight free radicals. This means that it can be useful for helping to prevent the onset of diseases that are caused by oxidation.
How Much Zinc Do I Need?
There are different requirements for zinc depending on age and gender. The USDA sets the following for the daily requirements for zinc.
- Infants between 0-6 months require 2 mg a day
- Infants between 7-12 months require 3 mg a day
- Children between 1-3 years require 3 mg a day
- Children between 4-8 years require 5 mg a day
- Children between 9-13 years require 8 mg a day
- Males 14 and older require 11 mg a day
- Females 14-18 years old require 9 mg a day
- Females 19 and older require 8 mg a day
Zinc deficiency is common in many areas around the world, including the First World, where nutritional deficiencies are more common than one might think.
If you don’t supplement your diet with zinc and you don’t eat enough foods that are rich in the mineral then you’re likely to develop a deficiency. It’s also possible to have a condition or to take certain medication that interferes with the absorption of zinc.
People with leaky gut syndrome, for example, have a harder time absorbing zinc among other nutrients. They will likely need to take more to maintain a healthy level.
Also, vegans and vegetarians are more likely to be zinc deficient than others. This is because the easiest and most dense sources of zinc are found in animal foods.
There are a number of symptoms that can occur in someone who is suffering from a zinc deficiency:
- Changes in appetite and having cravings for certain types of food
- Changes in your senses, particularly the sense of taste and smell
- Weight gain or loss
- Hair loss
- Digestive issues like nausea and diarrhea
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Hormonal problems like worsened PMS or decreased libido
- Lack of concentration, difficulty remembering things
- Decreased speed of wound healing
- Nervous problems
Forms of Zinc
There are a number of ways that you can consume zinc. The most commonly found forms are:
- Lozenges which can be chewed or swallowed
- Syrups and gels which are easy to swallow
- Capsules of powdered zinc
Zinc is also included in most multivitamins.
There are several different types of zinc that you might find in these supplements. The three most common forms are zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate.
They are all believed to have similar biological action and are not generally considered vastly superior or inferior to each other. Some minerals, like magnesium, are only effective if they are found in certain forms.
Of course, the easiest and most effective way to get zinc is from your food. Foods that are high in protein are generally higher in zinc than other foods, and the best sources of the nutrient are animal foods.
- Raw milk, dairy, and high-quality red meat are the best sources of zinc
- Grains and legumes, like black beans or even horse gram, are good sources of zinc. It’s best absorbed if you soak or sprout your legumes first. Otherwise the zinc won’t absorb because it will still be bound to anti nutrients that prevent it from becoming ‘activated’ in the seed.
- Many packaged grain cereals are fortified with zinc, but this type of zinc is generally hard to absorb
There are a few things to be aware of when taking zinc supplements.
First off, if you take too much zinc for too long, it can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. In particular it can prevent your body from absorbing copper.
There are some mild short-term effects of taking huge doses of zinc, such as changes to appetite and senses. It can also cause diarrhea or indigestion when taken in high doses, which is interesting because it can also be used to heal these health problems.
We hope you get the most out of the benefits of zinc.