By Chris D. Meletis, N.D.
Zinc is a best friend to pretty much every system in your body. There are so many reasons your body needs this essential mineral. Your cells can’t function properly without it. It’s important for immune function, wound healing, DNA synthesis, proper sense of taste and smell—to name just a few of its health benefits. Since the body can’t store zinc, you need to replenish zinc supplies every day.
What Causes Zinc Deficiency?
Most of us are overfed and yet we’re undernourished. There are reasons why you might not be getting enough zinc from the diet alone. And even if you are eating enough zinc there are some circumstances where adding a little more zinc through supplementation can give your health an extra boost(more on this later). Having said that, there are some groups of people who are most at risk of low or deficient zinc:1
• People with severe diarrhea, especially if it’s ongoing
• Individuals with celiac disease or short bowel syndrome
• People with digestive problems like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
• People taking certain medications that impair zinc absorption or speed its excretion from the body
• People who are under a lot of stress since stress can deplete zinc levels2
• Breast-feeding women
• Children and adolescents
• Older breast-fed infants and toddlers who aren’t getting enough zinc from the diet
• People with kidney disease
• Individuals supplementing with calcium. One study found that postmenopausal women who increased their calcium intake by 890 mg/day and who consumed a total of 1,360 mg/day of calcium absorbed less zinc and had imbalanced zinc levels.3 In a second study of a separate group of men and women aged 21 to 69 years, a 600 mg calcium supplement given together with a single zinc-rich meal reduced zinc absorption by 50%.3
Health Benefits of Zinc
Why should you take zinc? Because even if you’re not deficient in zinc, per se, nourishing the body with this mineral can support many areas of health. Here are 18 good reasons to take a zinc supplement.
Zinc and Immune System Health
Your body needs zinc for immune cells to develop and workproperly.4 So it makes sense that there’s a lot of research to show that taking zinc or zinc lozenges during the common cold can support immunity.5-7Zinc is most effective when it’s started as soon as you’re feeling under the weather, so it’s a good idea to have some on hand. Zinc gummies can coat the mouth and throat with zinc, so they’re one of the best forms of zinc to use when respiratory support is needed.
Zinc and Heart Health
Zinc levels are often low in people who have atherosclerosis, chest pain, heart disease, and heart failure.8-11One review found that zinc supported the health of people who had angina (chest pain) and atherosclerosis.10 In another review, this one evaluating 24 studies with a total of 14,515 subjects, zinc supplementation significantly supported healthy total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.12
Sharp Eyesight as You Age
Zinc protects the retina and is therefore important for eyehealth.1 Zinc is the most effective at supporting eye health when it’s combined with otherantioxidants.13
One of the most famous studies looking at zinc and antioxidants in eye health was the Age-Related Eye Disease Study(AREDS), a large, randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of 3,597people.13In this trial, researchers studied the effect of high doses of certain antioxidants (500 mg vitamin C/day, 400 IU vitamin E/day, and 15 mg/day beta-carotene) with or without 89 mg/day of zinc on the development of advanced AMD in older people with different degrees of AMD. To protect against the copper deficiency that can occur when taking high doses of zinc, the researchers also gave the subjects 2 mg copper. The subjects were followed for an average of 6.3 years.
Taking antioxidants plus zinc—but not antioxidants by themselves—significantly reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD and reduced visual acuity loss. When the subjects took zinc by itself without the antioxidants, it significantly lowered the risk of developing advanced AMD in participants who were at higher risk. It did not have these effects in all the subjects.
Zinc Skin Benefits
Zinc keeps the skin healthy. People whose wounds heal slowly often have low zinc levels.14 In addition, zinc supplementation may lead to clearer skin in people with acne and rosacea.15-17
Blood Sugar Support
Zinc can mimic the actions of insulin, the hormone that helps control blood sugar.18 By mimicking insulin, zinc can blunt the pancreatic cell production of insulin, stopping it from becoming too high.19 Zinc deficiency is common in both prediabetic and diabetic people,20and higher intakes of zinc support healthy blood sugar metabolism.21 A published review of 22 clinical trials found that zinc supplementation maintained healthy blood sugar control and insulin function.22
Zinc and Cognitive Health
Zinc may support healthy brain function. In 26 zinc-deficient people who had a stroke, taking zinc supplements was linked to improved cognitive recovery.23 In another study of 372 children, the kids who took zinc supplements had the best attention and reasoning skills.24 A human study of 30 older patients found that zinc supplements maintained healthy cognition by reducing copper levels and/or supporting optimal zinc levels.25 The researchers suggested that copper overload may be involved in the development of Alzheimer’s. Zinc supplements also improved occasional absentmindedness in people over 70.25
Zinc Is One of the Best Mood Boosters
According to a review of the medical literature featuring 2,400subjects and 17 studies, when blood levels of zinc were low the participants’ moods suffered.26 Subjects with lower zinc levels also were less happy.26 In another review of 9 studies, the higher the zinc levels, the better the subjects’ state ofmind.27 In one trial of 30young women, zinc combined with a multivitamin was a mood booster and also reduced anger.28 These effects weren’t seen with the multivitamin alone.
Other Health Benefits of Zinc
The benefits of zinc don’t stop there. If you’re asking yourself, “Why Should I Take Zinc?” here are more reasons to supplement with this critical mineral:
• Involved in bone formation and maintains bone density and strength
• Supports lung health
• Keeps your sinuses clear and eyes comfortable during spring, summer, and fall
• Promotes hair growth
• Maintains kidney health
• Helps kids grow taller
• Supports a healthy pregnancy
• Balances women’s hormones and leads to healthy ovarian and uterine function
• Promotes liver health
• Keeps the gums and mouth healthy
• Maintains the health of the ears
What Is The Best Type of Zinc?
Zinc is so important for so many different areas of health that taking a zinc supplement can promote optimal wellness. It can support the health of the ears, eyes, heart, mouth, lungs, immune system, sinuses, kidneys, brain, bones, and more. What is the best type of zinc supplement? Zinc gummies are an ideal choice. They coat the throat and mouth with healthy levels of this mineral. Plus, the zinc in the gummies is easily absorbed. And they’re a great option for people who don’t like to swallow pills. But whatever form you choose, zinc is truly a multi-talented mineral that can lead to improved health and well-being.
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