ZINC: sources, uses, deficiency and supplements

Zinc is a mineral that is essential to the body for many uses. It is a constituent of many enzymes that permit chemical reaction to proceed at normal rates. Zinc is involved in the manufacturing of protein (protein synthesis) and in cell division. It is also a constituent of insulin, and is involved with the sense of smell.

Experts consider zinc as an essential nutrient, meaning that your body cannot produce or store it. So for this reason you must get a constant supply through your diet. You can obtain zinc naturally in a wide variety of both plant and animal foods. Foods that don’t naturally contain this minerals such as breakfast ( cereals,snack bars and baking flour) are often fortified with synthetic forms of zinc.

Manufacturers add zinc to some nasal spray, lozenges, and other natural cold treatments because of it’s role in immune function.

Sources

Many animal and plant foods are naturally rich in zinc, making it easy for most people to consume adequate amounts. Foods highest in zinc include the following:

  • Shellfish: oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams.
  • Meat: Beef, pork, lamb and bison.
  • Poultry: Turkey and chicken.
  • Fish: flounder, sardines, salmon and sole.
  • Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans.
  • Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, etc.

Uses of Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient, meaning that your body can’t produce or store it. For this reason, you must get a constant supply through your diet. Zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral in your body after iron and is present in every cell.

Zinc is necessary for the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, nerve function and many other processes. It’s critical for the development and function of immune cells.

Zinc is a vital mineral that your body uses in countless ways. Your body requires zinc for numerous processes including:

  • Gene expression,
  • immune function,
  • DNA synthesis,
  • wound healing,
  • Growth and development.

Zinc Deficiency

Although severe zinc deficiency is rare, it can occur in people with rare genetic mutations and breastfeeding infants whose mother’s don’t have enough zinc. Symptoms of severe zinc deficiency include

  • impaired growth and development,
  • delayed sexual maturity,
  • skin rashes,
  • chronic diarrhea,
  • impaired wound healing and
  • behavioral issues.

Milder forms of zinc deficiency are more common, especially in children in developing countries where diets are often lacking in important nutrients. Deficiency impairs your immune system and increases the chances of infection. Zinc deficiency causes over 450,000 deaths in children under 5, every year.

Zinc deficiency is common in:

Supplements and Toxicity

When choosing a zinc supplement, you’ll likely notice that there are many different types available. These various forms of zinc impact health in distinct ways. Here are some of the few you might find:

  1. Zinc gluconate: As one of the most common over the counter forms of zinc, zinc gluconate is often used in cold remedies, such as lozenges and nasal spray.
  2. Zinc sulfate: in addition to helping prevent zinc deficiency, zinc sulfate has been shown to reduce the severity of acne.
  3. Zinc picolinate: some research suggest that your body may absorb this form better than other types of zinc including zinc gluconate and zinc citrate.
  4. Zinc orotate: This form is bound to orotic acid and one of the most common types of zinc supplements on the market.

Toxicity can occur through dietary or administration of high levels of zinc supplements. This can cause many problems in the body.

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