Zinc is a trace element that is essential for optimal health. It is required for the activity of more than 300 enzymes in the human body, and therefore participates in wide ranges of functions. It is widely distributed in microorganisms, plants, and animals. In humans, the highest concentrations of zinc are found in the liver, pancreas, kidneys, bone, and muscles. Zinc has a role in antioxidant activates, detoxification of the liver, and maintaining a healthy immune system. The senses of smell and taste are affected by zinc deficiency, and supplementation may help increase weight gain and benefit depression associated with anorexia. Diarrhea associated with malnutrition is significantly improved with zinc supplements.
Zinc absorption takes place in the intestinal canal. Zinc absorption depends on the secretion of a zinc-binding element from the pancreas.
The best dietary sources of zinc are eggs, lean meats, liver, seafood and wholegrain breads and cereals.
Zinc is relatively non-toxic, and although toxicity can occur. Zinc toxicity from large doses can cause diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, lethargy, loss of muscle coordination, and vomiting.
Large doses of zinc salts have been associated with gastrointestinal discomfort.
Functions in the Body
- It is a cofactor for the antioxidant enzyme Zn/Cu superoxide dismutase.
- Helps regulate a wide variety of immune system activities.
- Zinc is a component of insulin and also a regulator of insulin activity.
- Involved in sensory perceptions of taste, smell and vision.
- Zinc is necessary for the maturation of sperm, ovulation, and fertilization.
Symptoms & Causes of Deficiency
Zinc deficiencies are common within the United States, because of its extensive range of biological activities. The symptoms of deficiency include the following: acne, anorexia, cyclical movements of the eyeball decreased immunity, depression, delayed wound healing, frequent infections, hair and nails, impaired sense of smell and taste, involuntary, joint pain, and menstrual problems, night blindness, photophobia, and problems with skin. Pregnant women have greater zinc needs. Deficiency can cause impaired fetal development, and low birth weight. Stretch marks during pregnancy are related to a zinc deficiency. Food processing removes zinc causing fast foods and processed foods to zinc depleted. Depletion is frequently seen in the following medical conditions: alcoholism, diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, macular degeneration, malignant melanoma, and inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease.