Zinc is found in every cell in your body and works as a critical part of various functions, including fighting off colds, breaking down carbohydrates, and wound healing.
We naturally take in zinc through eating meat, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and yeast. It is critical for proper functioning of your body, and according to Pennsylvania State University’s College of Health and Human Development
, more than 300 biological functions in the body rely on the mineral in trace amounts to work properly.
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Next to iron, zinc is the most common mineral found in the body.
“It has been used since ancient times to help heal wounds and plays an important role in the immune system, reproduction, growth, taste, vision, and smell, blood clotting, and proper insulin and thyroid function,” the University of Maryland said
Although research is still needed to determine exactly what impact zinc supplements have on some conditions for which people take them, such as psoriasis and to fight cancer, medical researchers have a thorough understanding of how much the body needs this mineral.
“The human body loves zinc. In fact without zinc, humans wouldn’t be able to grow, make babies, feed babies, or fight diseases,” Penn State said, pointing out that too much or too little zinc damages the ability of the body to tackle those 300 processes.
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“Zinc also has antioxidant properties, meaning it helps protect cells in the body from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals may contribute to the aging process, as well as the development of a number of health problems, including heart disease and cancer,” the University of Maryland said. “Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.”
Pennsylvania State researchers said even knowing the importance of zinc doesn’t mean the medical world understands how it works. “Only a handful of researchers across the world work on the biology of zinc at the molecular level, how it operates within our cells, and ultimately how our bodies make use of it,” the website said, pointing out that the school’s Department of Nutritional Sciences is one of the few in the world to examine zinc on that level.
School researchers determined that 24 “zinc transporters” carry the mineral throughout the body, each with a specific purpose, such as moving zinc into or pushing it out of a cell. They’ve also focused on understanding zinc’s role in the body, with the specific goal of looking at the infant immune system and even development in the womb.
The World Health Organization listed zinc deficiency as the most common cause of disease in children under age 5 worldwide.
Here are a few things the National Institutes of Health lists as being affected by zinc supplements
• Immune system
• Macular degeneration
• Wound healing
• Speed recovery from the common cold (zinc lozenges or syrup, not supplements)
This article is for information only and is not intended as medical advice. Talk with your doctor about your specific health and medical needs.
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