SUPPLEMENT OF THE WEEK
Zinc is an essential trace mineral (i.e. needed in small amounts), which should be constantly consumed, as it cannot be made or stored in the body. Zinc is present in many foods and needed by the body for several body processes. Prolonged dietary inadequacy of the mineral can cause several health problems.
SOURCES OF ZINC : DIET AND SUPPLEMENTS
Diet: The zinc content of foods vary greatly. Animal sources provide more dietary zinc than plant sources due to the high levels of zinc in muscles. Examples of foods with very high amounts of zinc are oysters, meat, poultry and wholegrains. Other foods containing zinc include beans, cashew nuts, almonds, crabs, lobsters, chickpeas, rolled oats, milk and yogurt. Foods like some breakfast cereals and some staple foods are sometimes fortified with zinc as the mineral may not be naturally present in them in sufficient amounts. Zinc fortification in such foods help improve their zinc status.
Supplements: Zinc supplements come in the form of pills and capsules like QC ZINC and some multivitamins. Taking zinc supplement orally, is a fast way of improving most of the health conditions caused by the prolonged deficiency of the mineral. Seek doctor’s advice before taking any form of zinc supplement.
FUNCTIONS AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF ZINC
Zinc has numerous functions and health benefits including:
- Serving as an essential requirement for the activities of many enzymes.
- Playing a role in creating DNA which is the genetic material in cells.
- Speeding up the healing of wounds and improving skin health.
- Fighting against and reducing the duration of common cold.
- Serving as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent
- Helping in the management of blood sugar levels.
- Serving as an essential element for growth and development.
- Boosting the immune system thereby fighting against bacteria and viruses.
- Serving as an essential element for the production of sperm.
- Improving brain performance and mental health.
- Improving eyesight especially in the elderly.
- Helping in the treatment of diarrhea.
- Serving as an essential mineral for building strong bones.
- Helping in the treatment of fatigue and improving physical performance.
- Reducing bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels thereby protecting against heart disease.
- Improving pregnancy outcomes.
- Assisting in the healthy digestion of foods.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ZINC DEFICIENCY -
Impaired immune function leading to greater risks for infections, diarrhea, growth retardation if deficiency occurs early in life, slow healing of wounds, insufficient hormone production by sex glands causing fertility problems, hair loss, skin problems like eczema, eye issues like night blindness, loss of appetite, weight loss, depression, reduced sense of smell and impotence are all symptoms of zinc deficiency.
PEOPLE AT RISK OF ZINC DEFICIENCY :
People who might suffer from zinc deficiency include :
- Vegetarians and vegans.
- Chronic alcoholics.
- People with anorexia nervosa.
- Patients who are fed intravenously (parenteral nutrition).
- People whose diet contain large quantities of unleavened bread providing little or no zinc.
- Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus patients.
- Pregnant and lactating women who need healthy zinc levels for the proper development of their babies.
- Babies born by mothers with mild zinc deficiency.
- Children who are exclusively breastfed for a period longer than 6 months.
- People with gastrointestinal diseases.
- People undergoing prolonged starvation.
- Those who frequently suffer from diarrhea.
PREVENTION AND TREATMENT OF ZINC DEFICIENCY
Daily consumption of a diet rich in zinc prevents the deficiency of the mineral. In addition to a zinc-rich diet, obtaining extra zinc from supplements like QC ZINC can help treat the deficiency. Seek doctor’s advice before taking any form of zinc supplement.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE (RDA)
8-11 mg/day is the RDA for adults, with 11 mg/day for men and 8mg/day for women.
Pregnant adult women need 11 mg/day while lactating adult women need 12 mg daily.
Teenage pregnant women (14- 18 years old) need 12 mg/day and 13 mg for those of the same age bracket who are lactating.
For infants and children, zinc requirements increase with age. 4.0 mg/day is the RDA for infants, rising to 9.0 mg/day for children who are almost reaching the stage of puberty.
Dietary zinc requirement for the elderly may be a little less or the same RDA for adults. The actual daily requirement of zinc is dependent upon several factors.
Zinc has low toxicity, however, excessive intake for a prolonged period can lead to fatigue, nausea, fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, decreased appetite, irritability. Prolonged high intake of the mineral can also lead to the malabsorption of other minerals like copper and iron leading to their deficiencies.