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What is Zinc and what are its health benefits? A guide to your body’s second most abundant mineral

Zinc is an essential dietary mineral that is found in every cell in your body. In fact, it’s the second most abundant mineral in your body after iron. As humans we can't produce it though, so we need to get a constant supply through our diets. 

Zinc health benefits

Zinc is involved in the function of every system in your body and plays a role in everything from copying genetic material to breaking down food and nutrients. It’s required for the activity of over 100 enzymes, and also plays important roles in your growth and development, hair, skin and nail health, immune system, sense of smell and many other vital processes. The main health benefits of zinc are:

Zinc supports skin, hair and nail health

Zinc is an essential mineral critical for supporting many processes in your body. It is involved in almost every metabolic function, including hair, skin and nail health. 

Normal hair growth and loss follow a cycle. After hair grows, it begins a phase where it starts slowing growth and enters a “resting phase”. During this phase, hair follicles start to shrink and after a few months, follicles release the hair. Zinc appears to help inhibit the follicles from shrinking that precedes hair loss, meaning you hang on to hair longer, helping it to be longer. It also helps with follicle health as new hairs grow in. 

Zinc also plays a role in keeping the oil glands in your scalp and follicles working properly, and makes sure they produce enough sebum to keep your hair moisturised and scalp hydrated. 

Although Zinc won’t increase your hair growth, including Zinc in your diet can help prevent hair loss as hair loss is a common symptom of Zinc deficiency.

Studies show that reversing Zinc deficiency with supplementation may reduce deficiency-related hair loss.

Zinc supports your immune system

Another well-known health benefit of zinc is its role in supporting your immune system. Zinc supports the growth and function of immune cells, which in turn helps your immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. It also helps to protect your cells from oxidative damage caused by exposure to environmental toxins.

Benefits of Zinc for growth and development

Another crucial health benefit of Zinc is its key role in cell division and growth. It’s especially important during periods of rapid growth, including pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence, as well as in tissues that have quick cell changes and turnover, such as your immune system and digestive tract. In addition, it’s essential for collagen synthesis, which is crucial for the strength and maintenance of your skin, hair, nails, joints, bones and more. It can also speed up wound healing as it supports cell division, allowing new tissue to be formed.

Zinc supports hormone health

A lesser known health benefit of Zinc is its role in hormone health. Zinc is involved in the metabolism and production of hormones, including thyroid, leptin, testosterone, melatonin and other sex hormones that are necessary for reproductive health. 

Zinc helps with inflammation

Zinc is also a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants help to fight the effects of free radicals in your body, protecting your cells from oxidative damage and therefore helping to reduce inflammation throughout your body.

Zinc plays a role in taste and smell 

One of the enzymes that is critical for maintaining good taste and smell function is dependent on Zinc.

Zinc supports gene expression

Zinc can regulate genetic expression and is involved in DNA synthesis.

Summary

When it comes to an essential mineral as important as Zinc, we need to make sure we’re getting enough through our diet in order to avoid deficiency and depletion. Although getting enough Zinc from food is possible, it can be difficult for people who don’t eat animal products as it isn’t very highly concentrated in plant-based foods.

A Zinc supplement is definitely worth considering as the quality of the soil our food is grown in has decreased over time and just doesn't contain the quantity of vitamins and minerals it used to. And if you're looking to achieve a particular health goal, more than the daily required amount might be needed to see results. 

References

  1. Zinc and the immune system

  2. The effects of severe zinc deficiency on protein turnover in muscle and thymus

  3. Review: The role of zinc in the endocrine system

  4. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults

  5. Zinc in Infection and Inflammation

  6. Zinc and Taste Disturbances in Older Adults

  7. Regulation of intestinal gene expression by dietary zinc

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