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Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning that the body only needs small amounts, and yet it is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions. It is a major player in the growth of cells {particularly during childhood, adolescence and pregnancy}, building proteins, healing damaged tissue, and supporting a healthy immune system. Zinc is also involved with the senses of taste and smell.  Zinc heals wounds and keeps your immune system functioning optimally.

Zinc can reduce the length and severity of common colds.

Zinc is believed to prevent cold viruses from spreading and by reducing inflammation, which may shorten the duration of a cold.  A Cochrane review of clinical trials found that zinc lozenges if taken within a day of the onset of cold symptoms (sore throat, sniffles), the lozenges could tame its severity.   This meta-analysis showed that those who took zinc lozenges had the duration of their colds reduced by up to 40% over the placebo group.

Zinc oxide was used in ointments to treat wounds, as noted in ancient Greek medical texts. Today, zinc oxide is an over-the-counter skin treatment. It can defend against sunburns by reflecting and scattering ultraviolet rays so they do not penetrate the skin. It is also used to treat inflamed skin conditions like burns, eczema, bedsores, and diaper rash. The compound forms a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, repelling away moisture and allowing the skin to heal.

Signs of deficiency include:

    Loss of taste or smell

    Poor appetite

    Depressed mood

    Decreased immunity

    Delayed wound healing

    Diarrhea

    Hair loss

    Distorted or discolored nails

   Swollen tongue

            Diets deficient in zinc have been shown to increase acne symptoms. This effect occurs surprisingly quickly, with one research group demonstrating a significant change in skin health within 12 days of depleted zinc foods. Researchers have been able to demonstrate a number of other skin related symptoms, including face and body rashes, foot fungus, and mouth  and canker sores they attributed to a zinc deficiency.

Zinc may help prevent vision loss that is associated with the eye disease AMD(age-related macular degeneration) as well as slow down the progression of existing AMD. According to a study by the National Eye Institute, daily supplements of 80 mg of zinc combined with copper and antioxidants reduced patients' chances of developing AMD by 25 percent compared to a placebo.

Zinc deficiency has been linked to mental health conditions such as depression. Therefore, zinc supplements are sometimes included in depression treatment. Experts think that zinc's presence in the brain interacts with key receptors that help drive the production of serotonin, a chemical sometimes referred to as the "happy chemical" for the role it plays in our mood.

Zinc plays a dominant role in neurological health and brain cell regeneration, which may help explain why a zinc deficiency is linked to Alzheimer's disease. Zinc is essential for the healthy functioning of the body, including within the brain. Many older people do not have high enough levels of zinc in their bodies, and this is worse in people with Alzheimer's disease. This according to Dr. Catherine Lawrence of the University of Manchester in her research entitled: "Zinc deficiency drives inflammation-dependent cognitive decline in Alzheimer's disease.”

Foods with the highest reported zinc content are:

    raw oysters, 3 ounces: 14.1 milligrams

    beef, 3 ounces: 7.0 milligrams

    baked beans, canned, ½ cup: 6.9 milligrams

    crab, cooked, 3 ounces: 6.5 milligrams

    ground beef, lean, 3 ounces: 5.3 milligrams

    tofu, 1 cup: 4 mg

    lentils, 1 cup: 3mg.

    oatmeal, 1 cup: 2 mg.

    pumpkin seeds, 1 ounce: 2mg.

    peas, green, cooked, 1 cup: 2 mg.

    yogurt, plain, 8 ounces: 1.3 mg.

    pecans, 1 ounce: 1.3 milligrams

    peanuts, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 0.9 milligrams

 

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