What is Zinc?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral which is crucially important for almost every general function in the human body like immune function, enzymatic reactions, reproduction, wound healing, brain function, protein synthesis, skin health, growth and others which we will discuss shortly.
What is Zinc good for?
Gene expression and reproduction: Zinc directly works at genetic level and is a major player in gene expression and reproduction. It is important for fertility in both males and females, especially in females it is crucial for formation and maturation of egg for ovulation and fertilization. In males it plays role in improving sperm health, fertility and libido. (1,2)
Immune function: Zinc is crucial for the proper function of macrophages, B and T cells of the immune system and in itself it is an antioxidant protecting against free radical/ oxidative damage.(3)
Wound healing: It is as a cofactor for wound healing as it is required for every step in the wound healing process.(4)
Enzymatic reactions: Zinc is a cofactor for over 200 enzymes in the body, most of which deals with protein synthesis or some type of hormone function.(5)
Brain Function: Zinc is found in the hippocampus area of brain which is responsible for learning and memory. Lack of it in the body during pregnancy and lactation causes poor brain development in the newborn. It’s deficiency in growing children is associated with mental retardation and poor cognitive development.(6,7)
Growth: It is absolutely essential during growth years of children for the proper development of the body. It’s deficiency will impair the development of the sexual organs and and result in growth retardation(8).
Skin and eye health: It is anti inflammatory and plays a critical role in skin and eye health. It is due to this reason many skin treatment protocols use zinc for conditions like acne, eczema, ulcers etc. It’s deficiency also alters your vision and can lead to some night blindness and overall degeneration of the eyes. (11,12,13)
Deficiency and symptoms
Zinc deficiency results in following symptoms
- Loss of taste and smell
- Poor appetite
- Getting sick very often
- Poor wound healing
- Low testosterone
- Infertility among men and women
- Erectile dysfunction and low libido
- Acne, hair loss, brittle nails
- White spots on nails
- Joint pain
- Bone deformities
- Growth abnormalities in children
- Poor cognitive and brain development
- Brain fog
- Low thyroid
- Diarrhea and other issues related to gut
- Poor liver function
- Vitamin A and B9 deficiency
What causes zinc deficiency?
1.A diet high in cereals, grains and legumes: Zinc deficiency was first reported in an Iranian farmer who was eating a diet of unrefined flat bread, potatoes and milk.
Cereals, grains, legumes and seeds contain antinutrients in them such as phytic acid in large proportions which bind to Zn and decreases it’s absorption to a large extent.
Even today Zn deficiency is prevalent in areas with high cereal and low animal foods intake.
2.Low intake of animal foods: Animal based foods especially meat, red meat in particular and sea food are the best sources of highly bioavailable zinc.
A 3 ounce serving of beef contains 9mg of absorbable Zn. Compare that to pumpkin seeds which are one of the best sources in plant foods. Pumpkin seeds contain 6mg of Zn per serving but they do also contain high quantity of phytic acid.
So, you will absorb only little Zn from pumpkin seeds.
Therefore, a diet low in meat, milk, eggs and rich in cereals, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds will invite zinc deficiency.
3.High fiber diet: High fiber foods such as raw vegetables, whole grains, oats and some fruits contains antinutrients and impair Zn absorption in the digestive tract.
Even if you eat foods high in Zn high fiber intake will prevent you from absorbing it.
A high fiber diet not only impairs Zn absorption but also decreases absorption of all other nutrients like calcium, iron, fat soluble vitamins, you name it.
4.Excessive ejaculation: Zn is one of the most important nutrient for development of sperm and seminal fluid.
With each ejaculation you lose significant amount and if your diet is not on point and you do not eat enough meat your stores won’t replenish and you will get deficient in zinc.
5.Poor gut health: All the nutrients absorb through your gut. If you suffer from poor gut health or suffer from diseases of GI tract such as irritable bowel syndrome, Cronh’s or Colitis you are clearly at a risk of nutrient deficiencies and Zn deficiency is one of them.
Best food sources
Animal based food sources of zinc
Oysters are highest in this nutrient compared to any other source and are also known to boost virility and sex drive in men, next food which has high amounts is red meat especially beef.
Pork, crabs, mussels, herring, shrimp, poultry, cheese and eggs are all good sources.
Plant based food sources of zinc
In plant foods, pumpkin seeds, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, oats, quinoa, hemp seeds are rich sources of this mineral. However, remember that zinc from plant foods is poorly absorbed and they are not a reliable source for this nutrient.
One must eat a a diet rich in animal foods in order to get their daily requirements completed or in corporate a supplement.
Which zinc supplement is best absorbed?
In nature zinc is associated with protein/amino acids. So, forms of zinc supplements that come with amino acids are best absorbed.
Zinc oxide, picolinate, sulfate, carbonate and others are a waste of your money as they do not get absorbed very well.
Before incorporating supplements always consider obtaining nutrition from real food first.