(Natural News) Zinc is one of the nutrients essential for maintaining overall health. Unfortunately, the World Health Organization estimates that more than a third of the world’s population suffers from a deficiency in this mineral. Although most of these cases are relatively mild, especially in developed countries, it is still important to talk about zinc deficiency since this condition paves the way for various health problems when it is not adequately addressed.
Zinc is involved in many bodily functions, and it stimulates over 100 different enzyme activities, which is why it is essential to have sufficient intake of this mineral. Although people only need small amounts of it to enjoy its benefits, many people still suffer from zinc deficiency. Most people who suffer from this condition have an inadequate dietary intake of zinc, but there are also cases caused by preexisting conditions like diabetes, cancer, liver, disease, and sickle cell disease, which cause malabsorption of the mineral.
One of the most important functions of zinc is regulating pathogen-specific responses of the immune system by triggering T cell activation. This activity is the reason why people suffering from colds take zinc lozenges or syrups since these significantly reduce the severity and duration of the disease if taken within the first 24 hours of exhibiting symptoms. Without sufficient levels of this mineral, the functions of the immune system are significantly impaired, and the body becomes vulnerable to diseases. A study performed by researchers from Oregon State University showed that zinc deficiency increases the risk of chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and cancer since it triggers unnecessary inflammatory reactions and aggravates those that are already present.
Getting sufficient zinc levels is especially important for the health and development of children. More than 800,000 childhood mortality cases are attributed to zinc deficiency since this condition makes them susceptible to pneumonia and diarrhea, which are leading causes of death worldwide. Fortunately, zinc supplementation effectively reduces the risk of these conditions.
Another function of zinc is facilitating communication between nerve cells, which is vital for memory, learning, and cognition. The involvement of this mineral in the different brain functions is backed by a paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, which revealed that zinc deficiency increases the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Although zinc is generally beneficial, too much of it can also be bad for the body, so it is important to maintain just the right amounts of it to improve overall health. (Related: Zinc deficiency worsens sepsis, causes ‘catastrophic malfunctioning’ of immune system, increases inflammation.)
Symptoms of zinc deficiency
As with other diseases, the first step to treating zinc deficiency is diagnosing it. To know if you are suffering from this condition, you should look out for the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Slow wound healing
- Chronic fatigue
- Growth impairment
- Hair loss
- Acne or eczema
- Altered cognition and depression
- Abnormal taste and smell
- Difficulty in birthing for pregnant women
Food sources of zinc
The recommended daily amount of zinc varies, depending on a person’s gender and age. It is suggested that men get 11 mg per day while women should get at least eight milligrams. Meanwhile, children should get three to five milligrams of zinc to stay healthy. To achieve these recommended values, you should increase your intake of the following zinc-rich foods:
- Raw Pacific oysters
- lean beef
- baked beans
- King crabs
- Egg yolks
- Whole grains
For more articles about the different essential nutrients, visit Nutrients.news.