Zinc is a metallic chemical element represented by the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is known as an 'essential trace element' because the body only requires small amounts for overall health; but, it is extremely essential in improving immune function, wound healing, blood clotting, thyroid function, and more.
Zinc is included in most single tablet over-the-counter daily vitamins and mineral supplements. These preparations usually include zinc oxide, zinc acetate and zinc gluconate. It can also be found in food sources like meats, seafood, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
How does Zinc benefit the body?
Zinc is needed by the human body for proper growth and maintenance. One of its primary benefits is in maintaining vision. Zinc is present in high concentrations in the eyes and a lack of it can alter vision and cause changes in the retina, the back of the eyes where images are focused. Another role zinc plays in is protecting the body against viruses. It has shown in several studies to lessen symptoms of rhinovirus (common cold) and the herpes virus. A deficiency of zinc, though not so common, can cause problems like:
- low insulin levels
- loss of appetite
- low wound healing
- poor sense of taste and smell
- generalised hair loss
- rough and dry skin
Low zinc levels can cause problems like:
- male infertility
- sickle cell disease
- major depression
- type 2 diabetes
- food absorption
- chronic kidney failure
- chronic debilitating disease
In most cases, these diseases can be fought by taking zinc supplements or by adding more zinc-rich foods to your diet.
Zinc is believed to possess antioxidant qualities that help protect the body from accelerated ageing skin and muscle ageing. Additionally, it is known to help speed up the healing process while the body is recovering after injury and is suspected of being beneficial to the body's immune system. Zinc supplements help to treat and prevent other conditions like:
- Major depressive disorder (MDD). Zinc deficiency has been closely associated with MDD and may be an effective treatment.
- Stunted growth in children
- Acute diarrhoea in children
- Slow wound healing
- Low immunity
- Common cold
- Recurrent ear infections
- Lower respiratory infections
- Malaria, and other parasite caused diseases
Zinc is also beneficial to the human body as it helps treat macular degeneration, night blindness, and cataracts. It is also known to help treat cases of asthma; high blood pressure; and skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne.