Zinc is an essential mineral that many people aren’t getting enough of. Here we’ll give you five powerful reasons why, if you are deficient, you should supplement or eat more foods that contain zinc, to ensure you’re getting enough
Zinc is an essential mineral that many people aren’t getting enough of. Here we’ll give you five powerful reasons why, if you are deficient, you should supplement or eat more foods that contain zinc, to ensure you’re getting enough.
5 Reasons to Supplement Zinc
1: It boosts your immune system
Zinc is a very low-risk intervention to boost your immune system, something everybody should be thinking of doing in the present circumstances.
Zinc has been referred to as the ‘gatekeeper of immune function’, and if you’re deficient, you’re most susceptible to allergies and auto-immune disorders. Supplementing with zinc has been shown to decrease the length and severity of common cold symptoms, for instance.
One study in 50 older adults found that taking 45 mg of zinc gluconate for a year decreased a number of inflammation markers and also reduced the frequency of infections.
Zinc deficiency has also been linked to ‘poor COVID-19 outcomes’, and this may have something to do with the next reason on our list: its testosterone-boosting effects. We’ve already written about the fact that studies are suggesting that low testosterone can make you as much as six times more likely to die from coronavirus.
2: It boosts your T
Zinc is a common ingredient in test-boosters and with good reason: because it works. Studies have shown that zinc supplementation will reliably increase the testosterone levels of men who are deficient. If you’re already getting enough zinc, however, supplementation will have little to no effect.
3: Can improve blood sugar regulation
We’ve written about insulin sensitivity at length and in particular about why having poor sensitivity (often referred to as resistance) is a very bad thing. In fact insulin resistance is a common marker for a number of other serious, even fatal, conditions.
Did you know that even a short-term change to a paleo diet from a typical Western diet can improve a number of health markers, including insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles? Click here to find out more!
Research suggests that zinc may help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity.
One review reported that zinc supplements were effective at enhancing both short-term and long-term blood sugar control in people with diabetes, and other studies have shown (one, two) that zinc may help increase insulin sensitivity as well.
4: May improve heart health
Heart disease is the number one killer worldwide, accounting for a third of all deaths.
Research suggests that taking zinc may improve several risk factors for heart disease and may even lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
A review of 24 studies found that zinc supplements helped decrease levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol, as well as blood triglycerides.
A study of 40 young women showed that higher intakes of zinc were linked to lower levels of systolic blood pressure.
Other research suggests that low levels of blood zinc may be associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
5: May improve your skin, especially if you have acne
Zinc supplements are commonly used to promote skin health and to treat common skin conditions, specially acne.
Zinc sulfate has been shown to be especially useful for decreasing symptoms of severe acne; for instance, a three-month study of over 300 people taking zinc showed that it was effective for treating inflammatory acne.
Zinc supplements tend to be favoured over other treatment methods because they are cheap, effective and tend to have few side effects.
Am I likely to be deficient?
If you’re zinc deficient, as with all deficiencies, you will manifest certain symptoms.
Zinc deficiency can result in skin changes that look like eczema at first. There may be cracks and a glazed appearance on the skin, often found around the mouth, nappy area and hands. The rash won’t get better with moisturisers or steroid creams or lotions.
People with zinc deficiency may also experience:
- hair loss
- changes in their nails
- more infections
- feeling irritable
- loss of appetite
- eye problems
- weight loss
- wounds that take a long time to heal
- lack of taste and smell
Zinc deficiency can slow a child’s growth and delay them reaching sexual maturity.
The FDA’s recommended daily allowance for zinc is 8mg for women and 11mg for men.
Like most of the FDA’s recommendations, however, their zinc RDA seems to be on the low end of healthy. Other recommendations go as high as 30mg per day.
Four ounces of red meat has 5mg of zinc. So if you eat a single 12-ounce steak, you’ll be exceeding the FDA’s RDA and getting half of might be considered optimal.
Oysters are known for their high zinc content: six oysters contain 30mg. Other shellfish like shrimp are also rich in zinc. Nuts like peanuts, almonds, and cashews all have around 2mg per ounce. An individual egg has over half a milligram per egg.
The likelihood is, then, that if you’re eating a high-protein diet with lots of meat and eggs, you probably don’t need to supplement with zinc.
But if you’re not eating meat, eggs, and nuts consistently, you’re more likely to need a zinc supplement. Or, if you occasionally eat these foods but aren’t hitting the optimal range, a supplement is probably a good idea. Vegans or even vegetarians are the most likely to benefit from a zinc supplement.
It’s worth noting, too, that anti-nutrients such as phytates can interfere with the body’s absorption of zinc.
Which type of zinc to choose?
When choosing a zinc supplement, you’ll notice that there are many different types available.These various forms of zinc impact health in distinct ways.
Because it’s one of the most widely available and cost-effective forms of zinc, zinc gluconate is probably the most cost-effective kind; although some prefer the taste of zinc citrate.
However, if you’re able to invest a bit more, zinc picolinate may be better absorbed.
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