The Benefits of Zinc

The Benefits of Zinc

Over the past few years, immune health has become a popular topic of conversation. The Coronavirus has put us all on public health alert, especially those with auto-immune diseases or other deficiencies. 

While the threat of COVID-19 continues to linger, there are still other viruses and illnesses out there that pose a threat to our health. Therefore, it is important to support your immune system so that you can stay healthy and fight off viruses if you do catch one. 

What is Zinc?

Several vitamins and minerals have been heralded during this time for their immune-boosting power. One of the most well-known may be zinc. 

Zinc is a trace mineral that is contained in all body tissues and fluids [1]. The body requires zinc in small doses for a variety of functions, including immune health. Not only can it help control inflammation, but it also is involved in cellular response to infection and is believed to support wound healing, senses of taste and smell, and blood clotting. Zinc is required for the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, nerve function to name a few. Interestingly, zinc is involved in a critical enzyme responsible for taste and smell, called carbonic anhydrase (CA) and zinc deficiency is a well known cause of anosmia (loss of smell) and taste dysfunction [2].

Zinc And Immune Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) has proposed that at least one third of the world population is affected by zinc deficiency. [3] Zinc deficiency has been linked to “immune dysfunction” [4]. Zinc deficiency can result in altered numbers and dysfunction of all immune cells [5]. Zinc has shown to be a vital mineral in the latest push to fight against respiratory based viral infections such as the common cold, RSV, and COVID-19. Several research articles have even shown Zinc deficiency to increase one’s risk factors related to progression and severity of infections such as COVID-19 [5]. 

Some of the ways zinc benefits the immune system are also related to its antiviral properties and cellular protective mechanisms. In fact, Zinc is essential to preserve natural tissue barriers including the respiratory epithelium, which plays a role in preventing pathogen entry, for a balanced function of the immune system and redox system [5]. Zinc has been shown to prevent high levels of inflammatory mediators from destroying host tissue during infection. Furthermore, zinc directly inhibits viral replication [5]. Its antiviral effects have been demonstrated in detail in the literature to include examples such as coronavirus, herpes simplex virus, rhinovirus, varicella-zoster virus, respiratory syncytial virus, human immunodeficiency (HIV), and hepatitis. [6, 7, 8]

How Can I Increase My Levels of Zinc?

The body cannot store zinc, thus it must be ingested in adequate amounts each day. Adults require 8 to 11 mg of zinc per day and it’s generally easy to get enough zinc from diet, including foods such as beef, tofu, chicken, lentils, and oatmeal, however our demand for zinc may increase during times of illness and infection [9,10]. 

Though true zinc deficiency is rare in the U.S., it seems to increase as we get older due to reduction in dietary intake and reduced absorption. [11]

For people looking to increase their intake, zinc supplements are wildly popular due to its reputation for reducing the duration and severity of colds. Immunomix and GlucanPlus are PharmaNutrics’ immune health supplements that contain zinc along with other nutrients. 

Immunomix contains a variety of micronutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin D3, copper, selenium, zinc, manganese, quercetin, beta-glucan, and lactoferrin. This blend is designed for preventative support. GlucanPlus combines beta-glucan with zinc to fight off illness at the first sign of infection. Both products contain zinc for its antioxidant properties and its effect on bacteria and viruses.  

What else can I do to support my immune health? 

While zinc and other vitamins and minerals are important for immune health, these should not supersede the value of overall nutrition, healthy lifestyle, and preventative treatments. 

A balanced diet and hydration are important for optimal functioning of all systems in the body. Likewise, exercise, sleep, and stress management are all necessary for overall health and immune health, specifically. 

Be sure to check out our blog post, Tips for a Balanced Immune System, for more ideas. 


References: 

  1. Harvard Health. Zinc: The Nutrition Source. Accessed 11/10/22. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/zinc/#:~:text=Recommended%20Amounts,and%208%20mg%20for%20women
  2. Equils, O (2020) Proposed mechanism for anosmia during COVID-19: The role of local zinc distribution 7: DOI: 10.15761/JTS.1000397. https://www.oatext.com/proposed-mechanism-for-anosmia-during-covid-19-the-role-of-local-zinc-distribution.php
  3. World Health Organization The World Health report 2002. Midwifery. (2003) 19:72–3. 10.1054/midw.2002.0343
  4.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277319/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7365891/
  6. Skalny AV, Rink L, Ajsuvakova OP, Aschner M, Gritsenko VA, Alekseenko SI, et al.. Zinc and respiratory tract infections: perspectives for COVID19 (Review). Int J Mol Med. (2020) 46:17–26. 10.3892/ijmm.2020.4575 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32319538)
  7. Read SA, Obeid S, Ahlenstiel C, Ahlenstiel G. The role of zinc in antiviral immunity. Adv Nutr. (2019) 10:696–710. 10.1093/advances/nmz013 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6628855/)
  8. Suara RO, Crowe JE. Effect of zinc salts on respiratory syncytial virus replication. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. (2004) 48:783–90. 10.1128/AAC.48.3.783-790.2004 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14982765/)
  9. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/ 
  10.  https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-zinc-foods.php 
  11. https://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2009/sep/zinc-deficiencies-global-concern#:~:text=Even%20in%20the%20United%20States,this%20essential%20nutrient%2C%20experts%20say
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