You’ve likely heard of the element zinc and know that it’s important for human health, but how much do you really know of how it affects your body?
After all it is a trace element found in small amounts in the body!
The following 21 facts illustrate how important having the appropriate amount of zinc is for maintaining health and look at how plays an important role in our health from the time we are infants until our old age.
1. Zinc reduces your risk of upset stomach
Diarrhea and pneumonia are leading causes of death in developing countries. Though these complications can arise from a variety of different conditions, a study was conducted to test the hypothesis of whether or not zinc deficiency could make people—specifically children—more susceptible to acquiring these two conditions.
The study used randomized controlled trials to see if ingestion of zinc supplements had an effect at reducing the rate of diarrhea and pneumonia in children in developing countries (1). Fortunately, the study concluded that a zinc could significantly reduce the rate and morbidity of these conditions, establishing a new way for these patients to be treate
For you, it can be smart to supplement with zinc if you’re traveling to a new country just to keep your body protected against any new bacteria, foods, and other environmental factors.
2. Lower your sick days with zinc
Medical studies have indicated that Zinc deficiencies are associated with an increased risk of infectious diseases (2). This means that having the adequate amount of zinc in our systems is an integral part of maintaining a healthy immune system.
However, for many people in underdeveloped countries, getting the proper amount of zinc in their daily diet is challenging. This leads many, including millions of children, to having zinc deficiency.
This increases the risk of infection for those living in third-world and developing nations, placing the general population at greater risks of morbidity from infections. So, that lagging cold you have may be easily squashed with some more zinc.
3. Zinc improves your baby’s health
Because zinc has been identified as a key nutrient in helping our immune systems fight off infections, a study was conducted examining the effects of the intake of zinc had on babies between the ages of one and nine months.
The study was conducted in India and sought to examine if zinc had any benefits for infants of this age. The study concluded that there was a significant reduction in infant mortality rates (2). In fact, the study reported a reduction of 68% mortality in low-income infants in India. This suggests that zinc supplements can play an important role in the reduction of infant mortality in underdeveloped and developing countries.
4. Zinc boosts your thyroid health
Zinc plays an important role in the healthy and normal function of the thyroid (3). The amount of zinc we intake has a direct effect on the thyroid, making zinc an important nutrient to monitor in patients with thyroid problems.
However, a recent study conducted on Iranian schoolchildren showed no statistical significance between low zinc levels and the prevalence of goiters in children (3).
This suggests that other factors should be used to explain the rate of goiters in children and that the effects of zinc on the thyroid are still not fully clear. However, your thyroid is the furnace of your body.
When it’s in good health, your metabolism is going full speed ahead, when your thyroid isn’t healthy you can stop fat loss in its tracks. Having zinc may not reverse conditions like Hashimoto’s or goiters, but it seems that zinc plays a role in optimal thyroid health.
5. Zinc levels can determine the health in the body
Zinc is one of the three-most abundant elements found in the human body (4). This is because zinc plays an important role in many of the body’s functions.
These roles include having an effect on the immune system, reproduction, growth, and the body’s defense mechanisms against free radicals. Because of this, it’s important that the body have the correct balance of zinc at all times.
Having zinc deficiencies can lead to various health problems that are seen in underdeveloped parts of the world. Additionally, zinc plays important roles as an ion in the body, furthering its importance in the body’s processes.
Not only does zinc work to improve the speed of many processes critical to basic health, but it also works as a signal to keep you vital, fit, and focused.
Talk about the next fit and focused drug.
6. Zinc deficiency is common
Though you may not have heard much about it before, zinc deficiency is pretty common. In fact, this vital element is found in inadequate amounts in nearly two billion people around the world (4).
This makes zinc deficiency an important health concern for all countries, as countries with better production and standards of living typically have lower levels of zinc deficiency.
Because of the devastating effects zinc deficiency can have on one’s health, one should maintain a healthy balance of zinc in the body. Studies have indicated that even those living in Western countries could be at risk of minor zinc deficiencies.
This means that no one should consider themselves safe from this nutrient complication and should take active measures to make sure that they have adequate amounts of zinc in the body to perform important bodily functions.
7. Zinc boosts testosterone, naturally
With the average men’s testosterone levels worse than ever before, testosterone boosting supplements have become a massive market. No one wants to have a limp noodle down there.
That being said, where there is a ton of money, there are many lies. However zinc isn’t one of them.
Studies have indicated that zinc plays an important role in the proper functioning of the testicles and in testosterone production (4). This is because zinc has been linked to a condition known as hypogonadism, a condition in which the testes in males do not function as they should.
Young boys are particularly at risk of acquiring hypogonadism from zinc deficiency, as it interrupts the normal stage of puberty, leaving boys with decreased testosterone levels and sperm output. This can lead to life-changing and serious consequences of boys who are infected. This makes having enough zinc in the diet especially important for young and pubescent boys to ensure that they grow normally.
8. Too much Zinc can be toxic
Though the article has so far stressed the importance of having enough zinc in the diet in terms of zinc deficiency, it’s also possible to have too much zinc in the diet. This can happen from the overconsumption of certain products, such as medication.
A case study done on a patient, a twenty-seven-year-old male, reveals some of the complications of having too much zinc (5). These complications arose from taking too much acne medication that had an abundance of zinc. This led the man to being extremely fatigued and having dyspnea for four weeks.
In addition, he had a systolic ejection murmur and changes in his pulse, compounded severe cases of anemia and neutropenia. This illustrates the importance having a healthy balance of zinc in the body, showing the various health complications that having too much zinc can cause.
If you are taking or will take any medication for extended periods of time, especially acne medication, it imperative you ask your doctor if it could affect your zinc levels in a negative way.
9. If you’re low in zinc you may need more iron
Iron and zinc deficiencies, like peanut butter and jelly, often go hand-in-hand (6).
Studies have indicated that the same populations who suffer from zinc deficiency also suffer from iron deficiency. The standard treatment for both is having additional nutritional supplementation to help offset the effects of malnutrition.
Though iron supplementation has been linked to negative side effects even in those who are malnourished, zinc supplementation presents no serious side effects for those who are already suffering from a zinc deficiency.
This makes zinc supplementation a safe and effective method of counteracting a zinc deficiency. When taken together, zinc and iron supplements do not appear to have interfering effects with one another, meaning they may be taken at the same time (7).
10. Protect yourself from malaria with zinc
The effectiveness of zinc as a preventative measure against malaria in children in developing countries seems to be age-dependent (6). This means that the age of the child affected the utility of using zinc as a protective measure against acquiring malaria.
Additionally, as the study focused on zinc and iron supplementation together, they found that those who took both zinc and iron supplementation had a better chance of reducing the risk of contracting malaria as opposed to those who just took zinc supplementation, though both control groups saw a reduction in the risk of contracting malaria.
Children less than five years of age seemed to benefit most from zinc supplementation in regard to malaria, with the biggest reduction in risk coming from a combination of zinc and iron supplementation, followed by supplementation of zinc alone.
Iron supplementation had no statistical effect at reducing the rate of malaria when not used in combination of zinc.
11. Don’t use zinc for acute diarrhea
We have seen how zinc can help prevent the onset and severity of diarrhea in developing countries, but other studies have indicated that zinc has no statistical significance when used as a treatment for acute diarrhea (8).
This does not mean that zinc is not effective against diarrhea as a whole, rather that it should not be used as a treatment when children suffer from acute diarrhea. This study was conducted on Turkish children and monitored the amount of zinc in their blood plasma over a fourteen-day period.
Even though they had a significant rise of the amount of zinc in their plasma, they saw no significant benefit in using zinc supplementation against cases of acute diarrhea.
12. Zinc helps deter aging
Much of the literature concerning the benefits of zinc supplementation involves children and the immune system. Because of this, one study set out to see if zinc could help the age-related deterioration of the immune system (9).
The study noted that the immune system loses functionality as we age, and it sought to know if zinc could alleviate these problems.
The results were two-fold. Though it found that zinc supplementation at moderate levels could help maintain a healthy immune system, increased levels of zinc supplementation could worsen these age-related problems.
This indicates that further research needs to be done to better understand how zinc supplementation affects the elderly, and that elderly patients should closely monitor their zinc levels for optimum health.
13. Zinc improves co-ordination
A study measured the effects of zinc supplementation on Jamaican children to see if zinc supplementation had any effect on coordination (10). The results were clear: zinc supplementation helps children in underdeveloped countries and other children who may be malnourished and experiencing zinc deficiencies.
The study noted that zinc and stimulation together produced the greatest effects on a child’s coordination, and that zinc supplementation had significant effects in reducing the rate of diarrhea in children, but that it was not significant in helping improve growth.
This connects with a body of literature of the effects of zinc supplementation in children, providing further evidence that zinc supplementation should be enacted and encouraged in underdeveloped nations.
14. Zinc is still a mysterious element
Despite all the research about zinc that has already been conducted, one study issued the need for further studies to be conducted in regard to zinc and the human body (11). This means that the effects of zinc on the human body are not yet well-known or fully understood. The paper calls for a better understanding of how zinc affects our bodies and how it can be used to help prevent and treat diseases in underdeveloped nations.
Furthermore, it notes that we need to further research and understand the effects zinc has on the body even in cases that have been well-documented. This increased focus on zinc and its effects bears exciting possibilities in the field of nutrition and in helping developing nations.
15. Zinc is extremely affordable
We’ve seen how important zinc is to the human body, and we’ve noted several times that zinc deficiency is a serious health concern for billions across the globe, mainly in developing countries. Because of this, a study sought to see how much it would cost in order for India to have a program where food was fortified with zinc in order to help reduce rates of zinc deficiency (12). The study concluded that large-scale programs to reduce zinc deficiency through bio fortification are a cost-effective way to significantly reduce rates of zinc deficiency.
Even if you’re looking to buy a supplement, they won’t cost an arm or a leg. In fact, according to consumerlab.com, you can get zinc for under 5 cents a day (15).
16. Zinc is best used as a preventative measure
We have noted that zinc plays an important role in our immune function. Because of this, a study was conducted to see how effective zinc is at preventing disease in infants (13).
The study’s conclusion that zinc could help reduce the rates of certain diseases may come as no surprise, but some important information was revealed. The study found that zinc can significantly reduce rates of infection in infants with lower birth rates. This establishes a correlation between zinc and birthweight.
17. Zinc supports healthy digestion.
Zinc has the ability to promote ion absorption and reduce rates of ion secretion (14). In other words, zinc helps promote the absorption of necessary nutrients and ions that help our bodies function.
This helps you avoid bloating and keeps your body functioning the best it can.
18. Zinc doesn’t help your sleep
One commonly sold zinc supplement is a ZMA complex. This is a combination of zinc, magnesium, and aspartate. Mainly, it is taken at night to help you achieve deeper and more restful sleep to recover faster from a tough day of training.
However, there is little scientific proof that the zinc works to improve your sleep quality (17). In fact, the FDA loosely regulates marketing claims on supplements so Its recommended you look to third-party independent research, as presented here, to know if a supplement works and will help your health.
19. Copper is zinc’s rival in the body
Your intestines are one smart organ. Only a millimeter separates your blood stream from the outside world, but your body has figured out how to get in the nutrients you need and keep out the rest (for the most part).
In your intestines, zinc and copper compete for absorption because they’re similar. If you take high doses of zinc that can actually put you at risk for copper deficiency because you’ll be absorbing more zinc and letting the copper pass right by (18).
This works in the blood stream as well. If you have excess copper building up in your body, from Wilson’s disease or something similar, supplementing with zinc will help reduce copper stores in your cells and joints (19).
20. Zinc slows down the progression of blindness
Zinc, in combination with antioxidants- or just in high doses- is seen to reduce the progression of degenerative eye disorders such as Age-Related Macular degeneration (16).
As the leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration is something you should be working to prevent to keep your health in top shape, especially as you age.
Zinc plays a crucial role in several important bodily functions, and has a direct influence on our health. However, unless you’re already deficient in zinc supplementing may be going too far.
By maintaining a healthy amount of zinc in your body through eating a variety of nuts, seeds, and healthy meats through your day you can help support your immune system and promote your general health overall.