With our increasingly busy lives, healthy nutrition has become more and more neglected. The advent of a burgeoning processed food industry has also pushed the notion of dietary mindfulness to the wayside. This affects our health and as nutritional deficiencies continue to spike, the quality of life declines.
One of the most important nutrients to fall to obscurity is zinc. A naturally occurring mineral, this micronutrient plays many vital roles in the human body. Unfortunately, with the average western diet, you may not be getting enough of it. Roughly 2 billion people suffer from zinc deficiency.
Symptoms of deficiency include compromised immunity, sexual dysfunction in men, hair loss, diarrhea, eye and skin conditions.
Zinc and the Immune System
So besides avoiding these obvious maladies, why do we need zinc? Firstly, zinc plays a major role in the human immune system. Without it you would be susceptible to excessive inflammation, making even the most mild infections far more dangerous.
Zinc acts by regulating immune response to infection. Its antioxidant properties alleviate oxidative stress during disease associated inflammation. This action greatly reduces tissue injury during an infection. By extension, this helps the immune system work more efficiently and the body recover quicker.
Zinc is also responsible for the growth and development of immune cells. Lymphocytes (the cells that comprise your immune defense system) are all affected by zinc availability. Insufficient zinc will lead to a declined quality and quantity of these specialized cells. It’s easy to see how important zinc is for full system protection.
Zinc and Testosterone
Zinc’s prevalence in the human body also helps nourish a very important function. This function is the natural production of testosterone. zinc dosage testosterone, Testosterone is the male sex hormone, suffice to say, benefits of zinc sexually ,this aspect of zinc is important to men.
Zinc’s activity on enhancing testosterone production indirectly affects many aspects of health. Foods rich in zinc like oysters and other shellfish are traditionally considered aphrodisiacs. This is because the rise in testosterone associated with increased zinc generally increases sex drive in both men and women. With men specifically, zinc is essential both in development and as a full grown adult.
Zinc deficiency during adolescent life can lead hypogonadism. This is the underdevelopment of male secondary sexual characteristics. This includes lack of pubic hair, underdeveloped genitals and insufficient muscular development to name a few.
In adult males, low levels of testosterone are accompanied by loss in bone density, muscle build and an increased accumulation of body fat. It also leads to erectile dysfunction and lowered sex drive. When testosterone levels dip, there is often an associated rise in cortisol, the stress hormone. In this regard, zinc deficiency can have an impact on mental health. Zinc is therefore essential for normal sexual health.
Zinc and Eye Health
Zinc also plays a key role in human vision. Your eyes rely on a steady concentration of the mineral. This is because zinc helps nourish the retina, the eye’s focal point. In cases of zinc deficiency, impaired vision is a common symptom.
This is because zinc assists in the transport of vitamin A from the liver to the retina, where it is used to produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives your eyes their color, but more importantly, it provides protection against the harsh glare of light and radiation. Zinc supplementation can also delay or improve the onset of age-related macular degeneration. This is a natural degradation of visual function due to age, but with adequate zinc levels, can be slowed down and it’s effect made less pronounced.
Zinc can also help treat eye infections including conjunctivitis through topical application with its antimicrobial properties.
Taste, Smell and Zinc
Because the act of sensory perception vastly flavors visual and auditory stimuli, making it easy to ignore the importance of taste and smell. Because of this, role of zinc in chemoreception (the sensory detection of volatile chemicals) is often overlooked. This sensory perception is responsible for your sense of taste and smell. People suffering from zinc deficiency will often experience a decrease in sensory stimulation with the food they eat and the things they smell.
This condition is known as dysgeusia. It occurs due to zinc’s role in the quality of the peripheral nervous system that governs our olfactory receptors (taste and smell receptors)So now that you are fully aware of why you need zinc, it’s time to find it.
Where is the Zinc?
Right away, it’s important to realize that zinc is not readily available in the body. It is therefore an essential nutrient and can only be obtained through food and perhaps supplementation. Zinc is abundant in many whole foods. Foods such as red meat, nuts, legumes, whole grains and shellfish have typically high concentrations of zinc.
The following foods are especially known for their high zinc concentrations:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Hemp seeds
It is also important to know that foods rich in magnesium don’t go very well with the intake of zinc. This is because magnesium competes for absorption with zinc, making uptake more difficult. While both are essential, it is important to space them out to optimize uptake.
When faced with the challenge of what to eat, you will often find almost all available food is heavily processed. As mentioned, this will lead to a decline in availability of nutrients including zinc. So as to curtail this, many zinc supplements are available either as isolated doses of zinc, compound supplements with other minerals or as concentrated whole food extracts. Zinc is also available as in medicinal compounds in oral or topical drugs. The minimum recommended daily dosage of zinc in an adult human body is 10mg
Zinc is an essential trace element. That means your body needs it, but does not produce it. It keeps you health and happy. While it is easy to supplement, zinc is best absorbed through a healthy, balanced diet.