15 Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Zinc for Healing
Zinc is an essential trace element that doesn’t get much attention unless you’re looking for a natural cold remedy. However, zinc is need every day to maintain overall health and to perform basic body functions each day. Zinc provides countless benefits such as hormone production, strengthened immunity, improved digestion, and growth and repair. Zinc also has benefits for several diseases such as heart disease and cancer, in addition to being an anti-inflammatory agent. Zinc is present in all body tissues and is a necessary component in cell division. It acts as an antioxidant, fighting free radical damage and delaying the aging process. It also plays an important part in hormone production, which is why zinc deficiency could lead to diabetes or infertility.
How Much Zinc is Recommended?
According to the USDA, dietary intake of zinc is based on age and gender. For adults, the recommended daily allowance is 11mg per day for males and 8mg a day for females. For children, 8 years old and below, 3-5mg per day is recommended. Pregnant and lactating women may require more at 11-13mg per day.
Zinc supplements are available, but it is best to obtain recommended daily allowances of vitamins and minerals through dietary intake, when possible.
15 Health Benefits of Zinc
Zinc Helps in Muscle Growth and Repair
Zinc increases the amount of testosterone in the body produces immediately following resistance training such as HIIT (high intensity interval trainin) and weight- training by enhancing the conversion of androstenedione to testosterone. (1)
Zinc is a crucial component of cell growth and repair, so adequate consumption of zinc benefits muscle growth by helping the body repair itself and maintain skeletal and muscular strength. Zinc may also help in the release of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), growth hormone, and testosterone, all of which contribute towards a healthy metabolism.
2. Zinc Protects the Body from Alcohol-Related Damage
According to studies, zinc has the ability to protect the liver against alcohol-related damage. Excessive consumption of alcohol may cause zinc deficiency and affect thyroid function as a result. In one study, results showed that supplementing with zinc helped prevent adverse effects of alcohol during pregnancy. This is in line with another study that demonstrated how zinc protects the digestive tract from alcohol. (2)
Zinc has also been found to boost antioxidant capabilities of the liver by boosting a compound called metallothionein or MT. Low levels of MT make the liver sensitive to damage. Taking 25 to 50 mg of zinc prior to consumption of alcohol may be prudent to protect the body against any negative side effects. (3)
3. Zinc Supports Healthy Thyroid Function and Healthy Metabolism
Zinc is key to the production of thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) in the brain, which then signals the pituitary gland to produce thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). In men, failure to produce these hormones results in low testosterone. All of these, when they are functioning properly, count towards having a healthy metabolism and the preservation of lean muscle mass. (4)
4. Zinc Speeds Up the Healing Process of Wounds
One study conducted in Sweden found that application of topical zinc was an effective form of treatment for a patient with a leg ulcer. It resulted in decreased inflammation and bacterial growth, both of which contributed towards faster healing. (2)
Pharmacologically, zinc is vital in keeping the skin healthy. Those suffering from ulcers of the skin and wounds that take longer to heal are likely to have insufficient levels of zinc.
5. Zinc Can Be a Form of Treatment for the Common Cold
Zinc supplementation may reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms by 40% if taken within 24 hours of onset. Lozenges containing at least 75mg of zinc have been widely studied and considered effective, but may leave a bad aftertaste or cause nausea and stomach discomfort. (3)
6. Zinc Supports Healthy Reproductive Function and Fertility
According to studies, zinc helps in modulating serum testosterone levels in men. Furthermore, inadequate dietary zinc in healthy young men is associated with a decrease in testosterone levels, which may affect libido and fertility. In one study conducted at Wayne State University, results showed that giving male patients zinc effectively increased serum testosterone levels after 20 weeks. (4,5)
Zinc may also support fertility in women, since adequate levels of dietary zinc are needed for healthy ovulation and development of the eggs. (6)
7. Zinc May Delay the Onset of Chronic Diseases in Older Individuals
Researchers from Oregon State University found that improving zinc levels through proper diet and/or supplements may reduce risk of developing inflammatory diseases due to systemic inflammation and impaired immune system function, both of which contribute to chronic diseases.
Statistics also show that individuals 60 years and above in households where food is insufficient are at higher risk of zinc deficiency as opposed to households that observe a balanced diet. (6)
8. Zinc Promotes Proper Growth in Children
Popular children’s foods are being fortified with zinc to promote growth and prevent anemia. This link was discovered when a group of young male adolescents, all displaying signs of anemia and delayed sexual maturity, were consuming foods high in phytate, which is a zinc inhibitor. Their diets consisted of unleavened breads and unrefined cereals. Once the zinc dysfunction was corrected, the male adolescents grew up to 5 inches per year.
9. Zinc Strengthens Immunity and Protects the Body Against Illnesses
One of the important processes of the body reliant on zinc is the activation of T cells or T lymphocytes. T cells are cells that defend the body from cancerous cells in addition to regulating our immune responses. The lack of zinc, therefore, causes the immune system to deteriorate.
This has been proven in a study involving people with zinc deficiency. Subjects were more susceptible to infection caused by various pathogens. (7)
10. Zinc May Be an Effective Treatment for Diarrhea
The World Health Organization reports that over 1 million children below the age of 5 are killed by diarrhea each year. This number could be significantly reduced with zinc supplementation. One study found continuous supplementation of zinc over a 10 day period to be an effective course of treatment for diarrhea in children. (8)
11. Zinc May Be Used to Treat Acne and Other Skin Conditions
Although common in adolescents, adults may still be prone to acne breakouts. This may present a problem not just on a physical level but on an emotional level as well. Acne is linked to depression and self-esteem issues in both children and adults.
In one study, results show that acne is less likely to develop when zinc sulfate is taken, decreasing the mean acne score of 100% to 15%. (9) The next time you purchase ointments or medication for acne breakouts, check to see if it has zinc sulfate listed on the label.
12. Zinc Strengthens the Bones
Most people would associate calcium when it comes to strong and healthy bones, but unbeknownst to many, zinc also plays an important role in bone formation and maintainance.
Zinc is an essential component in the formation of hydroxylapatite. This crystalline calcium also serves the same purpose in oral health. In order to form hydroxylapatite, adequate levels of zinc are needed. (10) Without zinc, the integrity of the skeletal system would be affected, which could result in bone-related disorders such as osteoporosis. Along with zinc, Vitamin D, calcium, and Vitamin K should also be supplemented optimum bone health and function.
13. Zinc Enhances Memory and Improves Brain Function
University of Toronto researchers published a study which suggests that zinc may play a role in the formation of memories and learning processes. (11) The focal point of the study was the hippocampus and how neurons communicate to a person to learn and attain memories. Upon the removal of zinc, there was interference in neuron communication. When this happens, a person’s ability to retain information is stunted.
14. Zinc May Help Alleviate Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue
People who suffer from chronic fatigue are often told to consume higher amounts of fish due to its rich zinc content. This is one of the easiest ways of alleviating symptoms of chronic fatigue aside from recommending fish oil supplements. Zinc is also important in normal muscle function, and it is said that muscle fatigue may also be linked to chronic fatigue. Supplementing with zinc may bridge the gap between stable energy levels.
15. Zinc Potentiates the Effect of Vitamin A in Treating Night Blindness
Zinc deficiency may result in night blindness or abnormal dark adaptation, both symptoms of vitamin A deficiency. In a clinical trial conducted in Nepal, supplementing with vitamin A reduced the incidence of night blindness, but failed to completely eliminate it. When zinc treatments were administered alongside vitamin A, night vision was restored compared to the placebo group. (12)
Zinc, when taken excessively, may inhibit the absorption of copper. (13) Copper is an essential element in the formation of red blood cells. It is also an important component in iron absorption. One may experience loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, and stomach pains when serum zinc levels exceed the recommended daily average.
Millions of people around the world have zinc deficiency due to limited access to foods rich in zinc such as shellfish, oysters and animal products. The public health importance of zinc has been hamper due to lack of indicators of zinc deficiency and with zinc inhibitors, in abundance especially in plant-based diets, more measures are being undertaken to cover zinc requirements. (14)
Available data suggest that zinc deficiency is prevalent in many parts of the world, and the majority of deaths are due to malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, with children younger than 5 years at higher risk.
It is important to note that the body needs zinc in order for several processes to take place. Without zinc, almost all areas in the body are affected, which may eventually lead to poor quality of life. On the other hand, everyone must also be wary of excessive intake of zinc, especially in supplementation. Should one decide to take zinc supplements, it is important to seek a physician’s recommendation.