Zinc Deficiency Signs, Food Sources, and Absorption

Zinc Deficiency Signs, Food Sources, and Absorption

Food and nutrients can have a lot of sex appeal.  But zinc conjures up images of the white-hued sunblock that hovering parents apply all over their toddlers on a July day. Not so sexy. Zinc has powerful roles in health, so understanding zinc deficiency signs and how to get the optimal zinc amounts for your body is so important.

Quite possibly, zinc also brings up thoughts of chalky cold remedy tablets as well.

Zinc for sex appeal….could it be?  It’s a mineral.  Minerals often don’t get flashy headlines, or the reports like well-known endorphin foods like hot peppers and capsaicin do.

If you know me by now, you know that I’m blogging about zinc because it has undeniable nutrient power. Read on to learn more about zinc’s fascinating roles for our sexuality and maintaining our youth.

Zinc Functions and Benefits

Zinc is a fascinating mineral that has not hundreds, but thousands of functions that include transcribing DNA. or coding of our DNA to make proteins in the body.

Zinc also helps repair DNA breaks or damage.

What does that mean for us?  This likely means that low intake of zinc contributes to accelerated aging in our bodies, making us more susceptible to many illnesses.

The Scope of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc inadequacy affects at least 2 billion people worldwide, and many more people likely have undetected zinc deficiency [1].

Inadequate diets, depleted soils, medication depletion, and poor absorption make low zinc levels in our bodies a lot more common of a problem than it should be.

Read on to learn more about these issues, and if any of them apply to you.

Maybe one of the largest factors of deficiency is soil content for plants to assimilate.

Low zinc levels in the soil are the most common soil problem in agriculture, according to recent research [2].

Zinc Sexual Function Roles

Zinc is involved in the production of testosterone, a very sexy hormone both for men and women.

But zinc may also help keep us younger by improving DNA function, in effect, keeping the reproduction system intact from a gene standpoint.

In certain populations, zinc deficiency is linked to erectile dysfunction [3].

Around 37% of healthy adult men may suffer from insufficient testosterone levels [4], even in aging athletes [5].

Further, zinc supplementation increases testosterone levels in healthy men as well [5].

Further supporting the role of zinc for males and sexual health, low levels of zinc are related to the presence of gynecomastia, or breast growth, in boys going through puberty [6].

Ladies beware as well: testosterone is an important, although less researched, hormone for you as well.

In animal studies, zinc deficiency created imbalances in sex hormones for females [6].

If you are on estrogen replacement therapy or birth control, it significantly increases zinc losses in your body [7].

Zinc Aging Connection

Zinc deficiency results in damage to DNA, or aging of the DNA strands.

Intriguingly, adding zinc back to the diet of men helped repair the DNA damage from deficiency  [8].

Telomeres are a protective part of the DNA involved in chromosomes.  They help protect cells from senescence, aging, and cancer.

Telomeres become damaged (shortened) by many factors, which hinders their abilities to keep us healthy.

Enter zinc.  A very recent study found that zinc sulfate, as a cellular antioxidant, was able to lengthen or “reverse aging” in stem cells [9].

Importance of Preventing DNA Damage

DNA damage increases the risk of many diseases, [10] [11[12] including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Early death

Zinc is one piece of the puzzle for nutrients and aging.  Simply taking a multivitamin results in increased lengths of telomeres as well [13].

Zinc in young children appears to reduce DNA damage (telomere shortening) [14].

In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, zinc supplementation for elderly patients helped repair DNA damage (telomeres) and also improved blood levels of antioxidants [15].

In mice, zinc finger proteins were able to reduce damage to DNA and oxidative stress, as well as early aging (senescence) of cells [16].

Zinc helped reduce DNA damage caused by radiation in immune cells  (lymphoblastoid cells) [17].

Along with whey protein, zinc supplementation of 30 mg per day was given to frail elderly hospitalized patients improved activities of daily living and also improved markers of bone health (osteocalcin) and antioxidant status [18].

How else does zinc keep us young?  By helping us have a healthy immune response [19].

Zinc deficiency increases the risk of pneumonia  as well. Those people with higher levels of blood zinc had 50% less chance of getting pneumonia [20].

14 Reasons You Might Have Zinc Deficiency [21]

  • Alcohol intake
  • Poor quality diet
  • Rapid growth (young children and adolescents)
  • Pregnancy
  • Strict vegetarians
  • Eating Disorders
  • Stress
  • Sweating a lot (think athletes)
  • Medications
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Elderly
  • Eating disorders
  • Stress

Many people I meet have 3 or more of the above issues!

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms:

  • Poor immunity
  • Diarrhea
  • Allergies
  • Thinning hair
  • Impaired gastrointestinal function
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Acne
  • Rashes

These issues can also be signs of other health conditions.

Medication Zinc Depletion

Drug depletion of zinc and other nutrients is one of my biggest pet peeves as a healthcare practitioner. The problem is vast.

Today, I never see medication inserts addressing this issue, and what happens to people?  They suffer in thousands of ways.  Think about the role of zinc for DNA.

Click here for more information from Dr. Whitaker about drugs and nutrient depletions.

But, because zinc is stored within the cells, it isn’t easy to go to the doctor and say, “hey, could you check me out for zinc deficiency?”

Selected Zinc Food Sources [19]

Oysters 74 mg

Beef 7 mg

Venison 7 mg

Crab 6.5 mg

Pumpkin seeds 1/4 cup 2.6 mg

Cheese 1.2 mg

Black beans 2 mg

Kidney beans 0.9 mg

Zinc is an often neglected nutrient, but a balance of minerals from whole foods is the ideal way to ensure adequate zinc.

However, many people on medications and those with poor diets, restrictive diets, increased losses, and health issues often could benefit from supplemental zinc.

What enhances and what reduces zinc absorption?

Zinc from plant sources is poorly absorbed unless they are first soaked, sprouted, and ideally, fermented [20].

Protein foods generally have higher amounts of zinc, and the presence of protein also greatly enhances absorption of zinc [21].

I really love this blog by Poliquin group explaining why people’s diets are contributing to zinc deficiency.

Zinc doses for supplementation

For a supplement that I recommend, click here.

Doses available in supplement form are widely variable.

Zinc is always best tolerated when taken with food, especially protein.

Many people may benefit from supplemental zinc, but it is always best when taken in balance with other minerals and nutrients.

Zinc supplementation, at high doses, can cause nausea and taste changes [22].

Long-term high doses of zinc supplements interfere with your body’s copper status.

Dosing of zinc is highly dependent on your diet status, growth status, but also on diseases you may have and medications you may take.  For more information on dosing, check out WebMD.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.

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