Zinc is needed for the human body’s immune system and is present in cells throughout the body. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing and breakdown of carbohydrates. Its importance among minerals in the human system is second only to iron. Besides, zinc enhances the action of insulin and is needed for the senses of smell and taste.
Zinc deficiency can lead to a variety of health problems. With lowered immunity the chances of getting infected are far higher. Zinc deficiency is common in people with chronic illnesses such as Diabetes Type 2 and kidney disease.
Studies have shown that lower than normal levels of zinc in the body may contribute to high blood pressure by affecting the way the kidneys handle sodium.
Zinc is vital for healthy growth. In children the deficiency of this mineral may cause dwarfism, stunted growth and being underweight. Young boys going through puberty need high levels of zinc to develop healthy reproductive organs. Any deficiency will cause the body to draw it from other parts such as the brain which may result in learning problems in puberty.
Deficiency of zinc affects blood circulation too. It has been linked to cold hands and feet and high blood pressure. Blood cholesterol tends to rise with zinc deficiency.
Depression and mental lethargy can also result from deficiency of this mineral. Epilepsy and schizophrenia have long been associated with lack of zinc. Addictive behavior like alcoholism and obsessions are also linked to this.
Experts estimate that almost 25% of the world’s population is zinc deficient. Some common symptoms associated with lack of zinc are: Infertility, Breast and Prostate cancer, poor memory, unusual hair loss, insomnia, frequent cold and influenza bouts, allergies, loss of appetite and low energy.
The best food sources for zinc are: shellfish, meat, eggs, whole grains nuts and seeds. The recommended daily dose of zinc for adults is 8-11 mg. Excessive zinc intake of more than 100mg can also prove to be detrimental.