Are You Consuming Enough Zinc?
By Jayton Miller
Your body is a vessel. What you put into it is what you get out. Eating right, exercise and lifestyle choices are important to make sure you are healthy and in the best possible shape. Those who take care of their body will see the benefits in both the short term and the long term. A healthy lifestyle will help you maintain a healthy body and reduce your risk of developing certain diseases, illnesses, and certain cancers.
- Micronutrients Versus Macronutrients
- What Is Zinc
- Health Benefits Of Zinc
- How To Use Zinc
- How Can I Get The Necessary Levels Of Zinc
- Who Is At Risk Of Deficiency
- Foods With Zinc
Micronutrients Versus Macronutrients:
The human body is a very complex organism, containing thousands (or millions-trillions if you consider each individual cell) of parts that work together to make the body as a whole function properly. Nutrition is the fuel that allows your body to carry out life's many processes.
Your body needs a wide array of nutrients to meet all of its needs. This includes both macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients, as most people are aware, constitute proteins, carbohydrates and fats that the body needs in large amounts. The body needs micronutrients just as much as macronutrients, in much smaller quantities as compared to macronutrients, in order to function optimally.
Vitamins and minerals make up the category known as micronutrients. Although many of these are needed in small amounts, they are still extremely important to your overall well being. Zinc is one such essential mineral needed by the body in trace amounts to aid in many important life processes.
Read More: The Importance Of Micronutrients
What Is Zinc?:
Most likely you have heard of zinc in some form or fashion, but what is zinc and why is it so important?
Zinc is an essential trace element the body needs to carry out certain processes, especially at a cellular level. It is found in every type of tissue and organ in the body. The majority of zinc is found in the skeletal system and the surrounding muscle tissue.
In general, this mineral is known for its role in the function of the immune system, helping to support testosterone levels, as well as to aid in smell and taste. On a cellular level, zinc aids in cell division and growth. Over 100 enzymes are acted on by this essential nutrient making it necessary to the body's metabolic processes. Zinc is transported by proteins and is known as the second most common transition metal in the human body.
Although zinc is present in all of the body's organs, tissues and fluids, your body is not able to store or manufacture zinc on its own. This means you must consume zinc in your diet daily in order to meet the needed requirements.
Note* - It is important to make sure to get a proper ratio of zinc to copper. Supplementing with one of these trace minerals and not the others can cause a rather large deficiency in one of them to take place. Usually an 8:1 ratio of zinc to copper is ideal.
Health Benefits of Zinc:
Zinc is essential for physiological processes in the body associated with growth, immune function, reproduction and growth.
Research suggests that maintaining recommended levels of zinc in the body can help the body recover from certain illnesses such as a cold quicker and promote the healing of wounds by helping the blood to clot faster. The reason for this can be attributed to the fact that zinc promotes cell growth which is needed to heal wounds.
Studies show zinc lozenges are effective for reducing the duration of the common cold by one day if taken within 24 hours of the first symptoms.
There is also evidence that zinc can help with age-related macular degeneration, by slowing the progression of the disease. Not only does zinc provide health benefits, but in fact, a deficiency in zinc can lead to an increased risk of contracting an illness.
There is also a substantial amount of evidence on zinc and testosterone levels. This study showed in healthy human volunteers that correcting a zinc deficiency was able to effectively increase serum testosterone levels .
Research on rats even showed that zinc deficiency can lead to higher levels of estrogen and lowers levels of DHT - the principal male hormone in the body.
Zinc deficiency also has a significant impact on epigenetics, and can cause a myriad of downstream effects on DNA expression. Making sure to have adequate levels of zinc, as well as copper and other trace minerals is going to have a massive impact on all areas of your health.
How to Use Zinc:
The amount of zinc needed by the body is based on age, gender and whether or not you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The zinc needs of adults stay consistent, but children grow at a faster rate, which means their needs change more frequently.
Men need a slightly higher amount of zinc than women. According to the National Institutes of Health daily zinc recommendations are as follows:
- Adult Women: 8 mg per day
- Adult Men: 11 mg per day
Children are smaller in size and therefore do not require zinc in as high of dosages as adults do. The National Institutes of Health recommends:
- 0-6 months: receive 2 mg per day
- 7-12 months: receive 3 mg per day
- 1-3 years receive: 5 mg per day
- 4-8 years receive: 8 mg per day
- Girls 14-18 years: receive 9 mg per day
- Boys 14-18 years: receive 11 mg per day
- Girls 19 years and older: receive 8 mg per day
- Boys 19 years and older: receive 11 mg per day
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding typically have higher nutrient requirements in general than women who are not pregnant. Pregnant women will need to consume higher amounts of zinc to support their growing baby. Most pregnant and breastfeeding women need between 11-13 milligrams of zinc per day.
You should always consult with your doctor or child's pediatrician to discuss your zinc intake and the need for a change in diet or addition of zinc supplements.
How Can I Get the Necessary Levels of Zinc?:
As mentioned earlier, your body is not able to produce zinc on its own. This means it must be consumed daily through your diet in the recommended amounts. Oftentimes, eating a well-balanced diet will ensure you receive the required amount of zinc.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it is recommended to take zinc supplements a couple of hours before eating a meal. There are cases where supplements can cause an upset stomach. If this is the case take zinc with your meal to prevent the occurrence of unwanted upset stomachs.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency:
Studies suggest there are approximately 2 billion people worldwide who suffer from either mild or severe cases of a zinc deficiency. It is estimated that up to 12 percent of the population in the United States are at risk for zinc deficiency. This is considered a high percentage for a developed country whose population has access to adequate food sources.
A deficiency in zinc can either occur one of two ways. The first way is an inherited condition where the body has a reduced ability to absorb zinc properly. The second way is an absence of adequate zinc in the diet. Both of these paths lead to a zinc deficiency that negatively affects your health.
Because zinc is in every organ and tissue in the body, a deficiency affects every part of the body. The brain, which is the processing unit for the body, can experience mental lethargy, neurosensory disorders, neuropsychiatric disorders and decreased nerve conduction. Psychological disorders such as anorexia have been reported in individuals suffering from a zinc deficiency. (A great book to check out for nutrients and their relationship to health is “Nutrient Power” by Williiam Walsh)
The reproductive system is adversely affected by a lack of zinc in the diet. Symptoms include:
- retarded genital development
Additional symptoms include thymic atrophy, skin lesions, slower wound healing and acrodermatitis.
Who is at Risk of a Zinc Deficiency?:
Everyone needs zinc for their body to be able to carry out certain processes and functions correctly. There are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk for a zinc deficiency than the normal population. These are breastfeeding infants, children, pregnant women and the elderly.
It is important for infants and children to receive adequate quantities of zinc in their diets. Failure to do so can lead to an increased risk of infection and growth retardation.
Pregnant women are at an increased risk of deficiency due to their need for increased amounts of zinc to support the needs of their growing baby. Studies have shown those carrying a child should take extra care to consume adequate amounts of zinc in their diet.
Studies show that upwards of 30 percent of the elderly population have a zinc deficiency. It's natural that as you age certain systems and processes are not as efficient as they once were. This is true when it comes to the body's ability to use zinc. The ability to absorb and utilize zinc decreases with age. This statistic puts older individuals at higher risk of developing a deficiency.
What Foods Contain Zinc?
Whether you are a connoisseur of meat or a vegan, there are plenty of foods containing zinc to choose from. Research shows red meat and poultry are the most common foods that the American population receives their zinc from. Vegetarians and vegans need to be aware that plenty of foods from plants contain zinc, but the zinc from these sources are more difficult to absorb than zinc from animal sources. For this reason, it may be necessary to consume extra quantities of these foods in order to receive the recommended amount of zinc. It's worth noting that oysters contain the most zinc per serving compared to any other food.
Let's take a look at common food sources containing zinc.
Protein sources are a very common source of zinc. Most shellfish and red meats contain adequate quantities of this essential nutrient. Common protein sources include:
Foods made from dairy products are most notably known as an excellent source of calcium and probiotics, but it is also a good source of zinc. Dairy foods containing zinc include:
Fruit makes a great snack and for some even a healthy dessert. There are several fruit sources that are great sources of zinc. These include:
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Zinc is essential for the development of healthy immune systems and metabolism. Those with poor diets or who are vegetarian may be at risk for deficiency because they lack certain food sources rich in this mineral. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include hair loss, skin lesions, night blindness/sightedness deterioration, fatigue, impaired immunity and taste dysfunction among others. If you suspect your diet could use some tweaking to make sure you’re getting enough dietary minerals like zinc, try out the Thermo Diet today!