Why do we need zinc? It’s mentioned less frequently than other vital nutrients such as calcium or iron, and zinc is often overlooked even though it’s an important component of the modern diet. This essential nutrient is vital for your overall quality of life, health and wellness.
Zinc is a substance human beings can’t produce on their own and must be obtained through dietary sources. This means no matter what kind of diet you follow; you’ll need to ensure you’re eating foods rich in zinc. Why do we need zinc? Zinc is required for numerous processes in the human body, including immune function, DNA synthesis, wound healing, gene expression, growth and development.
Let’s explore the reasons your body needs zinc, and what can happen if you don’t get enough of it in your diet.
Health Benefits of Zinc: Why Do We Need Zinc?
Zinc is an essential nutrient and mineral. It’s also the second most abundant trace mineral in the human body, after iron, as it’s present in all of your cells. Without zinc, your body wouldn’t be able to produce over 300 enzymes responsible for nerve function, digestion, metabolism, and more.
Zinc helps to protect us from illness by supporting the proper functioning of our immune system. Zinc also forms the building blocks for proteins, DNA, skin, and cell growth. Zinc also impacts your quality of life, by determining your senses of taste and smell, for example. In fact, one of the interesting symptoms of a zinc deficiency is an inability to taste or smell properly. Some of the most important health benefits of zinc include:
- Immune system performance: Zinc keeps the immune system working properly. It’s crucial for cell signalling and immune system performance. One review found that up to 92mg of zinc per day can reduce the length of the common cold by a third.
- Reduced inflammation: Zinc reduces levels of various inflammatory proteins in the human body. Zinc can also be useful in reducing oxidative stress, protecting against cancer, heart disease, and mental decline.
- Wound healing: Zinc is frequently used as a treatment for ulcers, skin injuries and burns. The mineral plays an essential role in collagen synthesis, immune function and inflammatory response. It’s crucial for proper healing.
- Skin health: More than just a valuable tool for healing wounds, zinc can also improve skin health by fighting issues like acne. Studies indicate oral and topical treatments affect acne by reducing inflammation and suppressing oil gland activity.
- Metabolism function: Zinc is necessary for the activity of over 300 enzymes that help your body with things like metabolism, digestion, nerve function and many other processes.
- Sense of taste and smell: Your sense of taste and smell are often taken for granted until your ability to taste and smell somehow starts to deteriorate. This could be due to a zinc deficiency. Your sense of taste and smell rely on zinc (and your nervous system) to function optimally.
- Preserves health: Zinc can reduce your risk of diseases related to age, including infection and AMD. Zinc relieves oxidative stress by improving the activity of T-cells which protect the body. Order adults supplementing with zinc can also reduce their risk of pneumonia.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Severe cases of zinc deficiency are quite rare, but they can be extremely problematic when they do happen. Most often, zinc deficiencies are genetic in nature, passed down through genetic mutations. This is why it’s helpful to get a DNA test to help determine which nutrients you have a higher need of in your diet.
The symptoms of severe zinc deficiency can include:
- Impaired development and growth
- Skin health issues
- Impaired wound healing
- Behavioral issues
Less severe cases where someone is low in zinc can include decreased immunity, decreased appetite, poor mood, dry skin, thinning hair, and fertility issues.
Minor deficiencies are more common in children with limited access to nutrients. People with a higher risk of a zinc deficiency include:
- Vegans and vegetarians
- People with gastrointestinal diseases
- Pregnant women
- Older infants (Exclusively breastfed)
- Malnourished children or those with eating disorders
- People with a chronic kidney issue
- People with sickle cell anaemia
Getting More Zinc in Your Diet
Zinc is a crucial mineral – one that everyone needs in their diet. If you’re suffering from issues like dry skin or decreased immunity, zinc deficiencies could be at the heart of the problem. Your doctor could order a test for you to find out if you’re deficient in zinc.
Pumpkin seeds, eggs, dark chocolate and cashews are a few examples of foods high in zinc. It’s important to eat a balanced diet where you’re getting enough of all of the most essential vitamins and minerals, not just zinc. However, now you understand why we need zinc, and you’re that much closer to creating a healthier grocery list.