Why is zinc important?
Zinc is probably the most important trace mineral. To date, researchers have identified over 150 enzymes in the body that are zinc-dependent. Zinc is an essential for growth and repair of all tissues and for a healthy immune system. It aids the production of anti-bodies, which allow the body to remember past infections and protect again these in the future.
What happens when I don’t have enough zinc?
Zinc deficiency is characterised by growth retardation, loss of appetite and impaired immune function. In more severe cases, zinc deficiency causes alopecia (hair loss), diarrhoea, lowered sex drive and impotence. Other symptoms include eczema, acne and other skin problems, as well as delayed wound healing and taste and smell abnormalities.
For these reasons, zinc supplementation has been found effective in assisting in the management of the following:
- Anorexia and other eating disorders
- Hair loss
- Decreased sex drive
- Decrease immune function
- Poor appetite
- Poor sense of smell and taste
- Skin problems
- Emotional problems
- While zinc is a vital mineral, intake should be monitored and only taken when there is evidence of a deficiency. Taking high doses of zinc for a prolonged period of time can lead to numerous health problems (i.e., copper deficiency).
Can I prevent zinc deficiency?
Preventing zinc deficiency can be achieved. As stress, poor diet and infections can quickly drain the body of zinc, ensuring a balanced diet and stress-free life style is important. In times of high stress, using stress reduction strategies (e.g., relaxation exercises) and ensuring a healthy diet is advisable. During these times, taking a zinc supplement is also worthwhile and checking zinc levels regularly is important.
Foods high in zinc include red meat, nuts and seeds. Foods high in grains, such as pasta and bread can block zinc absorption, making zinc deficiency more likely. Maintaining a well-rounded, balanced diet is important.