Why Is Zinc Good for Your Body?
Zinc is a mineral that is vital to many biological functions such as immune resistance, wound healing, digestion, reproduction, physical growth, diabetes control, taste and smell.
The main biochemicals in which zinc has been found to be necessary include: enzymes and enzymatic function, carbohydrate metabolism and protein synthesis.
Many cells secrete zinc, including the pancreas (which also secretes insulin), the salivary gland, and the prostate gland. Immune cells also secrete zinc.
Zinc is a constituent of insulin and male reproductive fluid. Stored primarily in muscle, zinc is also found in high concentrations in red and white blood cells, the retina of the eye, bones, skin, kidneys, liver, and pancreas.
In men, the prostate gland stores high amounts of zinc.
By boosting the immune system, zinc may also protect against fungal infections and various infectious disorders, such as conjunctivitis and pneumonia. Zinc is especially important in the prostate and may protect it from early damage that could lead to cancer. Zinc is important in the metabolism of vitamin A and collagen. Zinc assists in maintaining the proper concentration of vitamin E in the blood.
Zinc deficiency most often occurs when zinc intake is inadequate or poorly absorbed, when there are increased losses of zinc from the body, or when the body's requirement for zinc increases.
Zinc is lost via the faeces, urine, hair, skin, sweat, semen and also menstruation. Liver and pancreatic disorders, alcoholism, diabetes mellitus, and disorders that impair absorption can cause zinc deficiency.
Signs of zinc deficiency include hair loss, skin lesions, diarrhoea, and wasting of body tissues. Lack of zinc may lead to poor night vision and wound-healing, a decrease in sense of taste and smell, a reduced ability to fight infections, and poor development of reproductive organs.
Good sources for vegetarians include dairy products, beans and lentils, yeast, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals. Pumpkin seeds provide one of the most concentrated vegetarian food sources of zinc. Dietary fiber, particularly phytates, can interfere with the body's ability to absorb zinc. Zinc is best absorbed when taken with a meal that contains protein.
General intake of zinc, approximately 15 mg daily, is adequate to prevent deficiencies. However, the amount of zinc needed to meet normal daily recommended intakes will be different for different individuals.