Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral and an essential nutrient for humans. Without adequate zinc daily, we can experience issues in our general health and wellness. In today’s post, we recap five major systems of the body that zinc plays a role in and what might occur if we don’t consume enough!
Zinc is necessary for maintaining a healthy immune system. Its role in the immune system is perhaps the most critical one zinc takes in the human body. Vitamin C gets the spotlight more often than zinc when it comes to immune health, but zinc is just as important.
Like vitamin C, zinc is an antioxidant. Antioxidants support overall health and can act as anti-aging substances. Antioxidants help to remove free radicals from the body. Free radicals can damage DNA, accelerating the aging process. They can also damage the immune system and make it more challenging to fight harmful bacteria and viruses. As an antioxidant, zinc helps to clear free radicals and support immune health.
In addition, zinc aids in the production of immune cells.1 Essentially, zinc increases the number of fighters our bodies have to ward off harmful invaders. Even more importantly, zinc supports the production of antibodies.2 Antibodies recognize specific bacteria or viruses and remove them before they can cause harm. Without zinc, this highly specialized defense mechanism would not function properly.
Zinc is also important for skin health. We already mentioned that zinc is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are great at restoring and rejuvenating skin to keep you looking and feeling younger because free radicals, which can damage DNA, tend to be more active in the skin.
Our skin is a barrier, so it absorbs sunlight and harmful chemical more readily than other organs. Meaning it gets beaten up quite a bit by these free radicals. Zinc and other antioxidants help to remove free radicals, slowing the aging process in the most visible region: our skin! Due to its power as an antioxidant, zinc is included in many sunscreens.
Zinc also restores the outer layer of the skin3 and helps support the skin as a barrier. This indirectly boosts the immune system by keeping dangerous bacteria and viruses out.
Zinc is essential for healthy brain function, including cognitive processes.
It is involved in learning and memory for adults.5 Zinc deficiencies can exacerbate age-related cognitive declines and may even contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, scientists are currently studying whether supplemental zinc can slow or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The results are inconclusive, but studies in animals show a lot of promise.6
Zinc is also important for promoting bone health. That’s the reason we include it in Artic Flex. Zinc has two important roles in maintaining healthy bones. First, it encourages the growth of new bone tissue.7 Second, it prevents existing bones from breaking down as quickly.
This is especially important as we age. Older adults are at greater risk for osteoporosis: their bones break down more rapidly than they regenerate, leading to bone loss and a greater risk for fractures. Zinc can help slow that process and keep bones healthy longer.
Sleeping problems are a massive concern for many Americans. We don’t get enough sleep, and the sleep we do get is lacking in quality. The market for sleep aids is vast, with many natural, over-the-counter products containing zinc.
Why is that? Studies have shown that zinc deficiencies are linked to poor sleep and lower overall sleep duration. Consuming enough zinc is important to ensure you sleep well.8
Along with immune health, sleep is one of the most important benefits of zinc. We don’t have time to discuss all the details today but suffice to say that sleep benefits our bodies more than we would like to believe. Adequate rest reduces the risk for many serious diseases, helps us maintain a healthy weight, and improves cognitive function.
Indirectly, zinc is partially responsible for promoting all these aspects of health through its ability to promote healthy sleep quality and quantity.
Reaping the Rewards
It’s important to remember that the body doesn’t process nutrients in a vacuum. Eating a balanced and varied diet is the most important thing you can do to stay healthy.
- Fraker PJ, King LE. Reprogramming of the immune system during zinc deficiency. Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:277-298. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.24.012003.132454.
- Prasad AS. Effects of zinc deficiency on Th1 and Th2 cytokine shifts. J Infect Dis. 2000;182 Suppl 1:S62-S68. DOI: 10.1086/315916.
- Prasad AS. Zinc: An overview. Nutrition. 1995;11(1):93–99.
- Prasad AS. Discovery of human zinc deficiency: its impact on human health and disease. Adv Nutr. 2013;4(2):176-190. DOI: 10.3945/an.112.003210.
- Juan SMA, Adlard PA. Ageing and cognition. Subcell Biochem. 2019;91:107-122. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-13-3681-2_5.
- Xu Y, Xiao G, Liu L, Lang M. Zinc transporters in Alzheimer’s disease. Mol Brain. 2019;12(1):106. DOI: 10.1186/s13041-019-0528-2.
- Yamaguchi M. Role of nutritional zinc in the prevention of osteoporosis. Mol Cell Biochem. 2010;338(1-2):241-254. DOI: 10.1007/s11010-009-0358-0.
- Cherasse Y, Urade Y. Dietary zinc acts as a sleep modulator. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(11):2334. DOI: 10.3390/ijms18112334.