Although zinc is an essential mineral you need to consume in your diet, its pervasive significance in health was fairly recently discovered in 1961, according to Linus Pauling Institute. Zinc plays a role in an array of chemical reactions, including nerve function, growth and development, immunity and reproductive capabilities, that take place each day in your body. These are good reasons to meet the daily requirement for zinc. Animal products are high in zinc, and for vegetarians, nuts and beans are good sources.
Zinc plays an important role in the proper function of your immune system. Specifically, it helps your immune system defend your body from invaders, including bacteria and viruses, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. If you are zinc-deficient, your immune system may not function properly, leaving you susceptible to infectious agents. This can result in conditions as common as a cold to pneumonia and other serious ailments. Taking zinc lozenges may help speed your recovery from colds, but more research is needed.
Gradual vision loss is common in the elderly and may be due to a condition known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. According to the ODS, elderly individuals in a large study who took a supplement containing 80 mg of zinc in addition to other nutrients for six years had less vision loss than those who did not take the supplement. If you have or are at risk of developing AMD, talk to your doctor to determine whether supplementation is right for you.
Your body also requires zinc to make protein and DNA. DNA is the genetic blueprint of your cells, encoding for the proteins that your body needs for proper growth and development. During infancy, childhood and pregnancy your cells are dividing at rapid rates, and getting enough zinc is crucial. Your body also uses zinc-dependent mechanisms to heal wounds and for the proper function of the senses of taste and smell.
A lack of zinc is unusual, because it is abundant in a wide variety of animal and vegetable foods. Most cases of zinc deficiency are due to rare genetic disorders, according to Vinay Kumar, M.D. in the book “Pathologic Basis of Disease.” However, if you suffer from frequent colds, you may be lacking in adequate zinc intake. Men should consume 11 milligrams a day of zinc and women should aim for 8 milligrams a day. If you are pregnant or lactating, your requirements range from 11 milligrams to 13 milligrams a day. Oysters, beef, crab, pork, baked beans, cashews, chickpeas, milk, almonds, peanuts, cheddar cheese and the dark meat of turkey and chicken are all sources of zinc.
- "Pathologic Basis of Disease"; Vinay Kumar, M.D.; 2005
- Office of Dietary Supplements: National Institutes of Health: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc
- Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University: Micronutrient Information Center: Zinc
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.