Zinc is an essential trace mineral needed for all forms of life, and an important mineral involved in a wide range of metabolic actions. It occurs in the body in larger amounts than any other trace element except iron.
Zinc has a variety of functions. It is important for growth and development, immune response, and neurological and reproductive functions. It is also related to the normal absorption of vitamins especially the B complex. Zinc is a component of insulin, and part of the enzyme necessary to break down alcohol in the system. It helps us digest carbohydrates and metabolize phosphorus. It is essential for the proper development of reproductive organs and prostate function.
Zinc is also valuable in healing wounds and burns. It may also be required in the synthesis of DNA, carrying all inherited traits and directing cell activity.
The best sources of Zinc are in natural, unprocessed and organic foods. Diets high in protein, whole-grains, wheat bran, brewer's yeast, pumpkin seeds and wheat germ are usually high in Zinc content.
Storage & Absorption
Zinc is absorbed in the upper small intestine, and the major route of excretion is the gastrointestinal tract. The liver, pancreas, kidneys, bones and muscles hold the largest storage of Zinc. It can also be found in the eyes, prostate, skin, hair, fingernails and white blood cells. A high intake of calcium may prevent the absorption of this mineral.
Zinc deficiency is commonly caused as a result of an unbalanced diet. Consumption of alcohol may flush stores of this mineral out of the liver and into the urine. Deficiency may retard growth, prolong wound healing and sexual maturity. Lack of this mineral in the body can also be related to dwarfism in humans. Excessive Zinc excretion has been known to occur in leukemia and Hodgkin's disease.
Zinc can help eliminate cholesterol deposits and is used in the treatment of artherosclerosis, also in arterial wounds. It is beneficial to those suffering with diabetes, because of the regulatory effect it has on insulin levels in the blood. A diabetic pancreas contains only half the amount of Zinc as a healthy one.
Zinc is relatively non-toxic. High intakes of this mineral can interfere with copper utilization, causing incomplete iron metabolism. Excessive intake can also result in loss of iron and copper from the liver. Supplementation of vitamin A should be included when using Zinc supplements. Zinc should be taken before bed, away from food, and at least 8 hours away from iron intake. Excessive supplementation may cause nausea, diarrhea or vomiting.