21 August 2012

Zinc: More than just an immune boost

Posted by Wellness under: Supplements And Vitamins .

Most of us know that zinc is a mineral supplement, but few are aware of its importance. Nutritionists have even gone so far as to call it the most important mineral in the body, thanks to its role in maintaining immunity and fighting disease. Studies have repeatedly proven that a high-zinc diet prevents a long list of health problems, from the common cold to heart disease. Besides that, however, zinc plays a handful of minor roles. Here are four of the lesser-known ones.

Reproduction: Zinc has been shown to aid in the creation and maintenance of reproductive cells, especially sperm. What it does is strengthen the structure of the cells to protect the DNA they contain. In males, it keeps sperm in top form by optimizing their energy use. This allows the sperm to preserve the energy to penetrate and fertilize the egg.

Sensory health: The cells that control our sense of smell and taste need a regular dose of zinc. More specifically, the proteins we use to generate these cells require a certain level of zinc to function. Over the years, research has shown that consuming more zinc can make a person more sensitive to smells and tastes, which are closely connected. Likewise, a person with a zinc deficiency often has trouble distinguishing tastes, which can affect appetite.

Preventing infection: One of zinc’s most important functions is to help white blood cells function at their best. This allows them, among other things, to heal skin wounds, sores, burns, and surgical cuts. It also speeds up physical healing by aiding in the production of collagen, the tissue that holds the skin together. This is why many topical treatments contain zinc, and why doctors often recommend them for people who are prone to scarring and blemishes.

Memory and cognition: Zinc has been shown to work with vitamin B6 to improve brain function. The brain itself naturally contains zinc, where it is concentrated in the hippocampus. This is the part that controls a person’s thoughts and memories. Supplementing this from dietary sources can improve memory, especially in injury patients who need to use their natural supply for healing.

Zinc is found in many common foods, so it’s not hard to get your daily dose. Calf liver and lamb are among the best sources; you can also get it from scallops, shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, asparagus, and turkey. Supplements can be an option if you have limited access to zinc-rich foods, but it’s always best to consult your doctor to see what best fits your needs.

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