Purpose of Zinc and Its Proper Levels
What is the purpose of zinc in our bodies?
Dr. George Obikoya in The Benefits of Zinc says, “Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in every cell in our body.” It is vital for growth, development, brain function, reproduction and in the response of the immune system.
Zinc is found in foods such as oysters (which have the largest amount of zinc), wheat bran, parmesan cheese, fish and eggs - just to name a few.
However, the amount of zinc a person has in the body is very specific. One might think a lot of zinc is a good thing, but actually, it is not. Through healthy food and a daily multivitamin, the human body should receive plenty of zinc to maintain sufficient levels. When the amount of zinc is either decreased or increased, problems can occur.
For example, noticeable signs of a zinc deficiency include growth and development retardation, loss of hair and appetite, impotence and delayed sexual maturation, abnormal taste sense and overall lethargy - to name a few.
On the other hand, if there is an overdose of zinc in the body, it becomes toxic to your system. Signs of toxicity include reduction in immunity, reduction in iron and reduced levels of good cholesterol.
The health benefits of zinc seem to be numerous. Researchers have found that zinc helps strengthen the immune system when suffering from a cold. In fact, at the Cleveland Clinic, in a study of over 100 employees “a virus was used to induce cold symptoms. The duration of illness was much shorter in the group receiving zinc gluconate lozenges . . . therefore it is advised to stick to zinc in the gluconate form” [source: The Benefits of Zinc].
However, the Mayo Clinic has a very different view of the vitamin. In fact, they list zinc on their list for Cold Remedies: What Doesn’t Work. The Mayo Clinic reports that many zinc studies are flawed, thus showing no significant benefits. Yet in some studies zinc was effective, but only within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms.
Yet many people swear by zinc to cure colds and often take it in the strongest form, such as liquid, when they feel the oncoming symptoms of a cold. People also take increased levels of zinc to boost their immune systems when recovering from a bad illness. Experts recommend not to take zinc supplements for more than two weeks. However, you should always check with your doctor before changing the levels of zinc in your body.
Also popular are nasal sprays and gels with zinc. The Mayo Clinic warns against these because, “the FDA has issued a warning against using three zinc-containing nasal cold remedies because they had been associated with a long-lasting or permanent loss of smell (anosmia).”
Now that you’ve learned about what is the purpose of zinc, you and your doctor can discuss the healthiest and safest plan for zinc in your diet.
The Benefits of Zinc by Dr. George Obikoya – vitamins-nutrition.org/vitamins/zinc.html
Cold Remedies: What Doesn’t Work, The Mayo Clinic – mayoclinic.com/health/cold-remedies/ID00036
Photo 1 (zinc): Creative Commons Attribution License – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zinc-sheet.jpg
Photo 2 (boy): Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1058