Zinc has become quite well known for its ability to boost your immune system; you may have even heard that Zinc can cure the common cold… Well I’m not entirely sure whether that is true but there are a number of benefits that people are unaware of. Zinc is required in every functional tissue in the body and having an even slight deficiency can have a “disastrous” effect on you performance.
Like magnesium, Zinc also has an intracellular effect. Hundreds of enzymes need zinc and these enzymes are used to support a number of different functions such as: support fertility/ health, anti-oxidant status, insulin and blood glucose management, cardiovascular health and muscular strength.
Benefits of Zinc
Zinc plays a key role in the production of hormones, therefore it is important to ensure that the body gets the zinc it requires. One hormone that is reliant upon zinc is testosterone. After carrying out exercise the rate of testosterone production increases, however with increased zinc levels this testosterone production post exercise is greater helping with growth and development. This effect on testosterone also has an impact on the reproductive health and fertility of men as having low zinc levels can lead to infertility.
Research has shown that having a zinc deficit “rapidly diminishes” antibody and cell response. It is said that using zinc supplements may reduce the impact of many diseases such as renal disease, chronic gastrointestinal disorders and sickle cell anemia. Ananda Prasad, who is a biochemist that specialises in the effect of zinc in the human body, has shown that making sure that the body has sufficient zinc levels can even help prevent certain cancers. So who knows it could possibly stop a common cold!
Another benefit of Zinc is that it plays a role in neurotransmitter function (chemical reactions in the brain) and can have an effect on a number of factors affected by your brain activity such as sleep, mood and energy. Zinc helps with the production of melatonin which is a key hormone in promoting healthy sleep. Dopamine is another hormone that requires zinc in order to be produced, this hormone helps with focus and drive. This increase in dopamine has also been said to help avoid depression as it elevates your mood.
Zinc has also been shown to help promote the healthy function of insulin. A study conducted on Spanish school children has shown that the children who had a Zinc deficit were more likely to build up an insulin resistance, this is when cells fail to react to the hormone insulin. Insulin controls the use of carbohydrates and fats. That is why in the study there was a link between students with low zinc levels, insulin resistance and greater body fat percentage. If your insulin levels stay low for a while, this can lead to diabetes.
You may be surprised to know that zinc deficiency is a widespread issue and is common in the U.S and the UK. This is greatly due to the diet of the populations as they consume a large amount of grains and cereals which is low in zinc. Therefore it is important to either use a zinc supplement or ensure you are acquiring enough zinc through your diet. However what foods contain zinc?
What Zinc supplements/ foods to use/ eat?
There are a number of dietary sources of zinc that you can eat in order to get your necessary zinc such as mussels, oysters, crabs, red meat, lobster, eggs and liver. There are sources available to vegetarians as well such as wholegrains, nuts and legumes but it is much more difficult for the body to absorb the zinc from these sources.
I personally don’t consume a lot of cereals/ grains and do eat a lot of meats however I still need to use zinc supplements to ensure my recovery is optimal. I use Transdermal Technologies recovery supplements as zinc is a major ingredient within both the recovery spray and recovery bath salts. I have previously used oral supplements such as ZMA which contains zinc, magnesium and vitamin B-6, but I find that using a transdermal supplement (through the skin) it is more effective that oral zinc supplements.