What Is It?
Zinc is an essential trace Mineral. Every cell in the body needs this nutrient and hundreds of body processes rely on it, from the immune system and the enzymes that produce DNA to the senses of taste and smell. Although the body does not produce zinc on its own, this mineral is readily available in drinking water and certain foods. Even so, a surprising number of adults fail to get enough of this mineral through their diet. Better food choices and a good multivitamin and mineral supplement can help compensate for such mild deficiencies.
There's now evidence that supplements may also be useful in providing the extra zinc needed to fight cold and flu symptoms. In addition, zinc has shown promise for speeding the healing of canker sores and sore throat, promoting recovery from skin injuries, reducing tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and controlling acne and eye problems.
Zinc is believed to promote a strong immune system by, among other things, revitalizing the thymus gland and its production of white blood cells. In addition, autoimmune diseases (chronic ailments linked to the improper functioning of the immune system, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia) may also benefit from zinc supplementation.
Interestingly, the presence of too little zinc has been linked to a decreased immune response in older people. Again, supplemental zinc may be a viable remedy. In a study of 118 relatively healthy but elderly nursing home residents in Italy, researchers found that those given 25 mg of zinc daily for three months developed stronger immune systems.
By boosting the immune system, zinc may also protect against fungal infections and various infectious disorders, such as conjunctivitis and pneumonia. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
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Zinc, infections, and wound healing
The immune system is adversely affected by even moderate degrees of zinc deficiency. Severe zinc deficiency depresses immune function. Zinc is required for the development and activation of T-lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell that helps fight infection. When zinc supplements are given to individuals with low zinc levels, the numbers of T-cell lymphocytes circulating in the blood increase and the ability of lymphocytes to fight infection improves. Studies show that poor, malnourished children in India, Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia experience shorter courses of infectious diarrhea after taking zinc supplements. Amounts of zinc provided in these studies ranged from 4 mg a day up to 40 mg per day and were provided in a variety of forms (zinc acetate, zinc gluconate, or zinc sulfate). Zinc supplements are often given to help heal skin ulcers or bed sores, but they do not increase rates of wound healing when zinc levels are normal.
Office of Dietary Supplements
The Need For Zinc
Lack of zinc may lead to poor night vision and wound-healing, a decrease in sense of taste and smell, a reduced ability to fight infections, and poor development of reproductive organs.
Some conditions may increase your need for zinc. These include:
* Acrodermatitis enteropathica (a lack of absorption of zinc from the intestine)
* Type 2 diabetes mellitus
* Down's syndrome
* Eating disorders
* Intestine diseases
* Infections (continuing or chronic)
* Kidney disease
* Liver disease
* Pancreas disease
* Sickle cell disease
* Skin disorders
* Stomach removal
* Stress (continuing)
* Trauma (prolonged)
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