Friday, August 03, 2012
By: Aurora Geib
[NaturalNews] Zinc is an essential mineral which, although required in only limited amounts, the body cannot produce and a steady supply must be maintained in order to support important bodily processes like strengthening the immune system, wound healing, cell division and supporting the catalytic activity of various enzymes essential in DNA. It has also been reported to encourage hair growth, as cells in the hair follicle contain zinc, and promote healthy skin, as zinc manages the skin’s oil content and the androgenic hormonal effect that produces acne.
Aside from being present in meat, dairy products and certain vegetables, zinc is also an essential trace mineral found in the soil. To get the full dietary benefits of zinc, choosing only organically grown vegetables or meat sourced from free range farms that feed their livestock organic grain is important. Commercial farming has depleted the soil of minerals and trace elements resulting in nutrient deficient products that may not contain enough zinc. It has also been observed that zinc is best absorbed when taken with a meal that contains protein and that zinc sources from fish, meat and poultry are more easily absorbed by the body than zinc derived from plant food. The body absorbs around 20 to 40 percent of the zinc present in food.
Nevertheless, observing a healthy and well rounded diet can already satisfy the body’s zinc requirements. However, if you suspect that you may not be getting enough, zinc is also commercially available as a supplement and is already normally a component in commercially available multivitamin supplements.
Benefits of zinc
People from industrialized countries rarely suffer from zinc deficiency. However, alcoholics, vegans, vegetarians, those undergoing chronic treatment of certain medications and infants are prone to zinc deficiency. So are patients who suffer from chronic GI, diabetes, liver disease, malabsorption syndrome and HIV infection.
Zinc deficiency is normally accompanied by nutrient deficiencies and addressing these deficiencies is important as zinc repletion alone may not lead to significant clinical improvement. Deficiency in iron, as well as vitamin D, is a nutritional deficiency normally associated with zinc.
People who suffer from zinc deficiency increase their risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Researchers have long recognized that zinc improves memory and learning. Zinc is normally found in the vesicles or nerve cells responsible for the transmitters that enable the nerve cells to communicate. The neurons of the hippocampus responsible for higher functions of learning and memory also contain major concentrations of zinc. If zinc were to be removed from the brain, communications between the neurons would significantly decrease. Scientists discovered that zinc is vital for controlling the efficiency of nerve cells in the hippocampus and when zinc levels are increased, communication in the hippocampus region would be restored, improving learning and memory capacity.
In men, zinc deficiency can result in delayed sexual maturation, prostate enlargement and even impotency.
Among the elderly, factors like reduced capacity to absorb zinc, increased use of drugs that increase zinc secretion may contribute to a mild case of zinc deficiency. It is particularly relevant that they pay attention to maintaining adequate zinc intake to avoid the consequences of zinc deficiency like impaired immune functions and osteoporosis. In a study conducted on 600 senior citizens, it was discovered that those with healthy zinc levels in their blood were 50 percent less likely to develop pneumonia. A prior study also revealed that those who had normal zinc levels in their blood experienced fewer overall infections and needed fewer antibiotics as opposed to those who suffered from low zinc levels who were prone to developing prolonged illness.
Other conditions associated with zinc deficiency include rashes, hair loss, diarrhea, dry or scaly scalp, loss of appetite, loss or changes in vision, poor or stunted growth, recurring infections, reduced sense of smell or taste, slow healing of wounds, cuts, bruises and unexplained weight loss.