An informative clip which will say the same as this blog. First I’ll cover overall what zinc does, briefly how it helps hair, skin, nails, the immune system and the prostate, then I’ll go into how to get it from the diet, how not to get it from the diet and the best form of supplementation.
I’m going to start by quoting from the Department of Health’s book Dietary reference values for food energy and nutrients for the United Kingdom.
Zinc (Zn) is present in all tissues…………………………………… either directly or indirectly it is involved in the major metabolic pathways contributing to the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, energy, nucleic acids and lipids. Early features of deficiency include growth retardation and defects of rapidly dividing tissues such as skin, intestinal mucosa and the immune system
This is very condensed and rather science-speak. So to expand a little: nucleic acids are DNA and RNA. Zinc plays a vital role in DNA replication, transcription and repair1. Also everyday our body comes under attack from oxidative stress in the form of fumes, car exhaust, pesticides,burnt food and so on. Click on the linked blog for more information. Our DNA is under constant attack and we need a good daily supply of anti-oxidants to ensure the DNA repairs itself properly. Zinc not only aids this repair, it is itself a powerful anti-oxidant.
Zinc is an essential component in about 300 enzymes. Some of these enable the metabolism of proteins, carbs, and fats (lipids), so without zinc we cannot properly break down any food from our diet – including alcohol, as it happens.
Zinc deficiencies cause problems with the skin, a part of the body who’s tissues are constantly dividing and repairing. Part of the deficiency problem is due to poor enzyme production, making skin repair slow. Another problem is with the above mentioned daily damage to DNA, so with poor zinc levels, damage to skin may not heal properly due to damage to the DNA relating to skin. The same goes for the intestinal mucosa – this is the lining of the insides of the intestines and is responsible for absorption, digestion and secretion of digestive juices. Poor zinc levels lead to poor healing, with particular relevance to such problems as IBS. With low levels of zinc, the stomach cannot make HCl, very important for breaking down proteins in food. And without HCl breaking these proteins down, the zinc cannot be broken out of its binding to the dietary protein, so is inaccessible. Rather a catch 22 situation.
Zinc is important in the production of infection fighting T cells in the immune system so low levels weaken our immune system and with good levels of zinc, our immune system will function much better. I train a year one teacher who religiously takes her zinc and never catches a cold. Given her daily exposure to sneezing, snotty children, this is quite remarkable.
Finally, although not mentioned in the above quote, zinc is very important in the health of the sex organs, both male and female. It works in different ways, including regulation of the male hormones and again giving protection against oxidisation. Amongst other things, good zinc levels are vital for the prevention of prostate cancer2
So zinc is a critical component of our very function. The next question is where do we get it from in the diet? Well, to quote from the above mentioned book:
As a general rule it is assumed that the body has no specific Zn reserve and that it is dependent on a regular dietary supply of the element. The best dietary Zn sources are red meats. The amount from plant sources varies. Unrefined cereals contain Zn in sufficient amounts……….. White flour is a poor Zn source.
So there we have it from the British government itself. Red meat is the best source. Added to this is organ meats, eg liver. Zinc is present in whole grains, eg whole wheat, oats, brown rice; but these plant foods contain phytates. Phytates are the principal storage of phosphorus in plants, but non-ruminants (ie animals that are not cows or sheep) cannot break phytates down. Moreover when eaten by a non-ruminants like us humans, the phytate chelates or binds to minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium and removes them from the body. If we look at the research of Ananda Prasad, he has shown that zinc deficiency is a major problem in the developing world where only limited amounts of meat is eaten 34 along with high grain consumption.
As I have said many times before the soil is deficient in such minerals as zinc and magnesium due to artificial fertilizers being used instead of organic matter, so I have yet to meet anybody with good zinc levels. This is determined by a very simple taste test using a weak solution of zinc sulphate. This means for good health, it really is necessary to supplement with zinc. As the blog on chelation said, and as the above video says, the best way of taking zinc as a supplement is in the way the body likes it most, and that is bound to an amino acid. Max Motyka refers to zinc glycinate as a good form. Other good forms are zinc orotate or aspartate.
So zinc is present in every tissue in the human body. It has to be eaten every day, and the best source of zinc is red meat or organ meats; grains could be called an anti-source, an anti-nutrient. It protects DNA, it produces many enzymes that help the chemical reactions going on in our bodies plus helps in all stages of digestion and keeps the cell walls healthy. Zinc is one busy bee. If we do supplement with good quality zinc, what is noticed most is that we rarely catch colds, our hair becomes lustrous and nails stronger. Cuts to the skin repair more quickly. And this is what we can see on the surface. What is happening beneath the skin is just as impressive.
- DNA and RNA: as a cell divides and reproduces, the genetic information in the cell has to be replicated to the new cells with absolute accuracy. RNA’s role is to transfer the genetic information found in DNA to part of the structure of DNA where proteins are uptaken [↩]
- Costello LC, Franklin RB. The clinical relevance of the metabolism of prostate cancer; zinc and tumour suppression: connecting the dots. Mol Cancer 2006;5:17. PMCID: PMC 1481516 A review of studies showing that zinc is vital in preventing citric acid from oxidising in the citrate producing epithelial cells in the prostate gland. [↩]
- Prasad AS. Zinc deficiency has been known about for 40 years, but ignored by global health organisations. BMJ 2003;326 [↩]
- Hambidge KM, Krbs NF. Zinc deficiency: a special challenge. J Nutr April 1 2007 col 137 no 4 1101-1105 this study looks at baby’s needs of zinc. After 7 months, the mother’s milk no longer provides enough zinc. [↩]