Zinc is one of the seventeen minerals essential to life. It is involved in dozens of body processes and is connected to the action of many vitamins. All nutrients require minerals for activity. It is estimated that at least 70 percent of Americans get less than two-thirds of the recommended daily allowance of 15 milligrams of zinc.
Zinc plays an important role in hormone function (with copper), maintenance of brain tissue, neurological health, night vision, stabilizing potassium, maintaining sodium-potassium balance (with magnesium, manganese and copper), immune function, wound healing and reducing inflammation. Zinc plays a role in over 300 enzyme functions in the body, according to Dr. Gabriel Cousens, author of “Spiritual Nutrition,” including at least 25 involved in digestion and metabolism, as well as some involved in collagen formation, DNA synthesis, respiratory function, immune response and aging.
High levels of zinc are absorbed by the male testes and prostate, eye, liver, kidney, bones, pancreas, heart, spleen, lungs, brain and adrenal glands. The human body contains about 1.8 grams of zinc. Good food sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, pecans, cashews, sunflower seeds, beets and coconuts.
Zinc and Vitamins
Zinc is connected to many vitamins in the body. Vitamin A is needed for proper zinc absorption, and zinc helps mobilize vitamin A from liver storage to other parts of the body, especially the skin. Zinc also helps absorb and activate the B-complex vitamins and phosphorus and enhances the activity of vitamin D.
Body fat depletes zinc, disturbing immunity, which can lead to eating binges. Up to 60 percent of the available zinc in the body can be lost due to stress, infection, trauma, heart attack or surgery. Excess exercise doubles the urinary loss of zinc. High levels of molybdenum and zinc together decrease growth in the body. Calcium, vitamin D and phytic acid in grains counter the effects of zinc. Excessive zinc (over 25 mg. per day) interferes with copper, manganese and iron, resulting in anemia. Too much zinc also lowers immune function and may lower good HDL cholesterol.
Zinc deficiency can cause poor concentration, decreased alertness, thyroid problems, potassium deficiency (fatigue, hypoglycemia, muscle weakness, lethargy, apathy and depression), thymus shrinkage, depressed immunity, infection proneness, slow wound healing, canker sores, birth defects, epilepsy, brittle hair and nails, baldness, dandruff, lessened taste and smell, reproductive problems, low sex drive, low sperm count, impotence, infertility, PMS, enlarged prostate, eczema and other skin problems, acne, boils, white specks on the fingernails, bone and teeth problems, sore knee and hip joints, arthritis, osteoporosis, cataracts and other eye problems, cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, poor appetite, pica and ulcers.