Improve all aspects of your health and well-being by making sure you get enough zinc in your diet. Many people know about zinc for its immune boosting properties, but this mineral is actually a wonder of health benefits. Researchers write that “zinc is such a critical element in human health that even a small deficiency is a disaster.”
Zinc is so important because it is found in every tissue in the body and is directly involved in cell division. It is a powerful antioxidant, helping to prevent cancer, but zinc also is directly involved in proper endocrine function and the maintenance of ideal hormone levels.
Zinc deficiency makes both men and women infertile and causes low libido. Low zinc also exacerbates the effects of stress on the body and accelerates aging. Additionally, adequate zinc is necessary for optimal physical performance, energy levels, and body composition. Zinc affects protein synthesis and is required for proper function of red and white blood cells. It is highly concentrated in our bones, the pancreas, kidneys, liver, and retina.
This article will give you the top ten reasons why you should attend to your zinc levels and ensure your loved ones are doing so as well. Be aware that zinc deficiency is not only prevalent in malnourished individuals or developing countries. Rather, it is widespread in the U.S. and the UK, and it is particularly common in areas where the population eats a large amount of cereal and grain proteins. Low zinc is common in men, women, and children, and I’ve found that over 90 percent of my clients and athletes are zinc deficient.
Groups At Greatest Risk of Low Zinc
Zinc deficiency occurs from not eating enough zinc-rich foods. Zinc is found in large concentrations in meat, some seafood—oysters contain the largest concentration of all known foods—and dairy. Whole grains and legumes contain zinc, but it is bound to phytates in these plant-based foods, making the zinc inaccessible by the body. Vegetarians are at greatest risk of zinc deficiency, but alcoholics and people with digestive issues and poor stomach acid are also highly susceptible. Taking medications may produce zinc deficiency and low levels of almost all essential nutrients. Women on the birth control pill or on hormone replacement therapy are at greater risk of deficiency.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Low zinc will produce an altered sense of taste leading to cravings of saltier, sweeter food. Deficiency can also be indicated by diarrhea, low energy, chronic fatigue, infertility, poor immunity, bad memory, inability to focus, ADD symptoms, slow wound healing, nerve dysfunction, and ringing in the ears. Take note that symptoms may be present, but because they are so diverse and associated with other health conditions, it’s often hard to make the link to zinc deficiency without a test. A guide is provided at the end of this article on how to test your zinc level.
#1 Improve Athletic Performance and Strength
Adequate zinc directly affects athletic performance and strength development from training because it plays a primary role in anabolic hormone production. Research shows having ample zinc available in the body allows for a more robust release of the three most important anabolic hormones, testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Without these, you’ll miss out on muscle and strength development from your hard work in the gym.
A recent study in the journal Biological Trace Element Research highlights the boost that raising zinc levels can give to testosterone production following exercise. Researchers found that giving trained athletes a zinc supplement for four weeks prior to an exhaustive exercise test resulted in a greater post-workout testosterone response than a placebo. Taking zinc produced higher testosterone levels in the athletes than taking a selenium supplement (a powerful antioxidant that minimizes oxidative stress in the testis). Researchers note that zinc enhances the conversion rate of androstenedione to testosterone, and that paired with high-intensity exercise, it allows the body to produce testosterone at an even higher rate.
Male and female athletes will benefit from adequate zinc since this mineral ensures healthy release of growth hormone and IGF-1, which are essential for performance and muscle development in both sexes. Plus, the boost to testosterone post-workout can improve strength gains recovery in men. And, as you’ll see below, having enough zinc will give you more energy and improve metabolism.