Our bodies contain approximately 2 to 3 grams of zinc, which is distributed throughout the body. Zinc is an essential component of over 300 enzymes associated with many different metabolic processes. The highest concentrations of zinc are found in the eyes, liver, bones, prostate, semen and hair.
There are organs in the human body which secrete it, such as the salivary gland, the prostate gland and the pancreas. Even cells involved in the activity of the immune system secrete zinc. It is used up in various metabolic processes and eliminated through normal excretory and urinary channels, so it need to be replenished often. If it isn’t you will begin to suffer from deficiency symptoms.
Functions and Uses
Growth and Reproduction
Perhaps the most critical role zinc plays is in the synthesis of the nucleic acids RNA and DNA, which are essential for cell division, cell repair and cell growth. Thus zinc is needed for reproduction and for growth and development.
The Immune system
Zinc may exert a protective influence by boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that a zinc deficiency can impair a large variety of immune functions and defense mechanisms. These effects which include abnormalities and eventual shrinking of the spleen, thymus and lymph nodes and impaired production of antibodies. According to the European Journal of Immunology, the human body needs zinc to activate T lymphocytes. T cells help the body in two ways, one controlling and regulating immune responses and two attacking infected or cancerous cells.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, “zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens.” Zinc supplements help in decreasing the severity and duration of cold and other mild illnesses. This mineral reduces the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines during cold or other infections. Also its ability to stimulate white blood cell activity makes it ideal for reducing cold and infections.
Zinc plays a role in maintaining skin integrity and structure. Patients experiencing chronic wounds or ulcers often have deficient zinc metabolism and lower serum zinc levels. Zinc is often used in skin creams for treating diaper rash or other skin irritations.
A Swedish study that analyzed zinc in wound healing concluded, “Topical zinc may stimulate leg ulcer healing by enhancing re-epithelialization, decreasing inflammation and bacterial growth. When zinc is applied on wounds, it not only corrects a local zinc deficit but also acts pharmacologically.”
One of the highest concentrations of zinc in the human body is found in the eye, especially in the iris and retina. Zinc seems to be involved in the activation of vitamin A and helps in night vision. Poor zinc intake is also related to such eye conditions as impaired color discrimination, cataract formation and optic neuritis. Zinc prevents cellular damage in the retina, which helps in delaying the progression of AMD and vision loss, according to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology.
Zinc assists in spermatogenesis and the development of the sex organs. Several studies and trials have linked poor zinc status with low sperm quality. One study in the Netherlands found that subjects had a higher sperm count after zinc sulfate and folic acid supplementation. In another study researches concluded that poor zinc intake maybe a risk factor for low quality of sperm and male infertility. The prostate gland has one of the highest concentrations of zinc in the body.
In general, low levels of zinc in the prostate appear to be associated with diseases of the gland. Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce the size of the prostate and symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia in the majority of patients. Zinc also inhibits the binding of androgens to receptors in the prostate gland, an action that may play a role in the prevention of prostate cancer and other diseases of the prostate gland.
Zinc can also help in stimulating hormone production especially testosterone in men and this will help in improving energy and stamina.
RDIs and Deficiency Symptoms
Despite the fact that zinc is so necessary, there are no true storage depots for this mineral. Although relatively large amounts are found in the bone, along with other minerals, it does not appear this this zinc is readily available to the body. Therefore deficiency signs tend to appear quite soon after depletion.
It is now recognized that subclinical zinc deficiency may manifest itself as impaired ability to heal, impaired acuity of taste and smell, loss of appetite and impaired night vision. Prolonged zinc deficiency may result in failure to grow, mental disturbances, lethargy, skin changes and susceptibility to frequent infections. Testicular function may also be adversely affected.
The RDI for zinc is 15 milligrams for all men and women. However The ODI (optimum daily intake) is 22.5 to 50 mg.
Important Sources of Zinc
The most important food source for zinc is meat and other products like oysters, turnips, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, dark chocolate and pecan nuts.
Indications for Zinc intake
- For anyone who gets frequent infections and has poor immunity.
- Those who have slow healing wounds and want faster recovery for their wounds
- For men who want more stamina, energy, vitality and reduced prostate problems.
- Anyone who wants good skin lustrous and strong hair and nails.
- For overall general health.