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Zinc and your health

Second only to magnesium in that respect, zinc (Zn) is a part of over 100 enzymes, thus needed for many processes crucial to body functioning. It includes growth, reproductive function, immune system functioning (by promoting white blood cell activity) and free-radical protection. This micro-mineral is needed for transport of vitamin A from the liver, which means that vitamin A deficiency may be, at least in part, caused by low zinc level, and not correctable without normalizing zinc levels first.

It is no wonder that low zinc levels can cause a number of symptoms, from loss of appetite, retarded growth, suppressed immune system, benign prostate enlargement and impotence, to loss of the sense of small and taste and depression. Night sweats are often caused by low zinc/potassium ratio, and can be alleviated with appropriate supplementation18.

Likewise, longer-term excessive zinc intake creates chemical imbalance in the body, bringing on another set of possible symptoms and diseases, from gastrointestinal problems and anemia to impotence, menstrual problems, muscle spasms or compromised immune function. Among the minerals suppressed by excessive zinc intake are iron, molybdenum and copper.

One of the common health problems associated with high zinc levels is prostatitis (unfortunately, it is often times attempted to correct it by adding more zinc). Another, rather painful health problem, sciatica, is often caused by zinc/potassium imbalance, and responds favorably to bringing the ratio of two minerals to near-optimum level18.

Obviously, there is plenty of reasons to make sure you have sufficient zinc intake (and well balanced nutritional status as well). This cannot be taken as granted, since zinc soil levels are declining, with food processing taking another big chunk of it out. Furthermore, phytates and oxalates in grains and vegetables can significantly reduce its absorption, and same occurs when there is a high level of its antagonists and inhibitors (calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin C, and others) present. It is also lost with sweat, or due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Zinc DRI (Dietary Reference Intakes, the most recent set of dietary recommendations set by the government) for an average healthy adult is set at 8mg and 11mg, for a female and male, respectively, with short-term therapeutic doses up to 250mg a day.

Natural food sources of zinc are oysters, seeds, wheat germ, wheat bran, oats, soy, peas, nuts, beef, and other.