- MOST RECENT
Get Acquainted With Your Nutrients - Zinc
Get Acquainted With Your Nutrients – Zinc
Zinc is a very important mineral and is found in almost every cell in the body. It exists as a constituent of several enzymes and also in the hormone insulin. Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of the immune system.
The body of an adult may contain about 2–3 grams of zinc and about 1% of it is replaced daily. Zinc is also present in skin, bone and prostate. Zinc is present in blood and is found in higher concentration in red blood cells than in plasma.
What does zinc do in the body?
Zinc is an essential mineral that is critical to a large number of structural proteins, enzymatic processes, and transcription factors and its deficiency may cause a wide range of clinical symptoms. Zinc plays a role in the biochemical reactions that regulate protein and nucleic acid synthesis and turnover. It is important for the preservation of the ribosomal tertiary structure. It is a part of over 300 catalytic enzymes in the body.
Zinc is necessary for
- A healthy immune system
- For proper wound healing
- To maintain a sense of taste and smell
- For DNA synthesis
- Normal growth and development
- Heme production
- Mineralization of bone
Zinc also exhibits antioxidant activity and helps in protecting cells from damaging effects of free radicals.
How much zinc do we need per day?
The Adequate intake (AI) for zinc varies depending on age, sex, and physiological status. Adults need 11mg (men) and 8 mg (women) per day. A pregnant lady needs 11 mg zinc per day and a lactating woman 12 mg a day.
Sources of zinc
Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods. Oysters are the richest sources of zinc. Herring is also a rich source of zinc. Red meat and poultry are good sources of zinc. Beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products also provide dietary zinc.
Most of the dietary zinc absorption takes place in the small intestine. Zinc absorption depends on protein digestion. Zinc binds strongly to proteins near-neutral Pᴴ. As protein is digested, zinc becomes available for transport through intestinal cells. Diets rich in protein need to be digested for the zinc to become available for absorption.
Zinc absorption is better from foods containing animal proteins than plant proteins. For example, cereals contain phytates which bind zinc and make it unavailable for absorption. Phytates inhibit the absorption and utilization of zinc in the body. Phytates which are found in whole grain bread, cereals, legumes, and other products can decrease zinc absorption.
Zinc deficiency may occur due to several reasons such as
- Dietary zinc intake is not sufficient
- When zinc is poorly absorbed
- When there is an increased loss of zinc from the body
Zinc deficiency affects the normal functioning of several organ systems. Severe zinc deficiency affects integumentary (skin, hair, nails and exocrine glands), gastrointestinal, central nervous system, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems.
Common signs of zinc deficiency include
- Growth retardation
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
- Rough skin
- Immune system damage
There is also research evidence that weight loss, delayed healing of wounds, taste abnormalities, and mental lethargy also may be seen in cases of zinc deficiency.