Zinc’s Benefits: Immune System, Weight Loss, Bones, Skin, and Digestion

Zinc and Your Lifestyle

Whether it’s a zinc lozenge or nasal spray, many of us are familiar with the role this essential trace mineral plays in treating cold symptoms. Zinc is the second most abundant mineral in the body and is found in every cell.

It is a natural part of our diet, occurring in meat, fish and poultry, whole grains, nuts, legumes and vegetables. But some may benefit from a supplement, especially those with gastrointestinal conditions that reduce zinc absorption.

1. Strengthens the immune system

Zinc is one of the most important trace minerals for immune function. It enhances innate immunity, reduces inflammation and promotes cell growth and maturation. Zinc deficiency and aging share many immunological characteristics, including decreased thymic hormone production, diminished NK cell activity, reduced T helper cell activation and thymulin levels, and increased pro-inflammatory cytokines [52].

A zinc-rich diet helps maintain optimal immune function. A study found that elderly nursing home residents supplementing with zinc experienced a decrease in respiratory infections and an increase in the number of activated T cells. Zinc increases the expression of A20 mRNA, a protein that inhibits NF-kB activity, which results in decreased inflammatory markers and oxidative stress [53]. Zinc also boosts the proliferation and activation of B cells and enhances antibody production and binding to antigens.

2. Helps with weight loss

Zinc benefits DNA synthesis and cell division, as well as growth and development. It can also act as an anti-inflammatory, according to research.

People with low zinc may experience gastrointestinal issues or immune system deficiencies, according to studies. Those with dietary restrictions like vegans, vegetarians and those who avoid gluten may struggle to get enough of the mineral from food.

Restricted calorie diets often result in micronutrient deficiencies, including zinc deficiency, which can inhibit weight loss. A study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism found that adding zinc supplements to a restricted-calorie diet reduced weight, BMI and waist circumference in participants compared to placebo. Researchers also found that supplementation decreased inflammatory markers and insulin resistance, as well as appetite. Zinc supplements can interact with certain medications, including doxycycline (Vibramycin) and ciprofloxacin (Cipro). It’s also important to avoid taking zinc alongside immunosuppressant medications like corticosteroids or cyclosporine.

3. Strengthens bones

Zinc is needed to help the body absorb and retain calcium, and prevent bone breakdown (also known as osteoporosis). It also helps support cell growth and repair wounds.

It’s best to get zinc from whole food sources. However, people who have trouble getting enough zinc in their diet—including vegans and vegetarians, those who have had bariatric surgery, or those with gastrointestinal issues like Crohn’s or IBS—can benefit from a zinc supplement.

Eating a protein-rich diet that includes foods such as canned salmon with the bones, sardines, milk, cottage cheese, and eggs, along with leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, can ensure you’re getting enough zinc. In addition, regular weight-bearing exercise, limiting alcohol intake, and not smoking can improve bone health. Taking a magnesium and zinc supplement may also strengthen your bones.

4. Helps with skin

You’ve seen zinc on the shelves of your favorite skincare products, and for good reason: Zinc is essential to a number of important cellular functions like cell growth, division, immunity, hormone production and wound healing. When used topically, it can help soothe and heal irritated skin (think eczema or rosacea) and is an effective sun protector.

Zinc helps to keep skin moisturized by decreasing transepidermal water loss, which is especially helpful for dry skin. It also regulates the production of keratinocytes, which helps prevent clogged pores and acne. (This is why it’s often the main ingredient in diaper rash cream!) And it can even help fight signs of aging, by encouraging healthy skin cells to grow. Zinc is also a great natural astringent, decreasing the likelihood of excess sebum and oil buildup in pores.

5. Helps with digestion

Zinc benefits include regulating proteins, helping to structure DNA, and supporting essential immune function. However, it can also cause problems if consumed too much. For example, high doses can cause diarrhea and decrease copper absorption, so it’s important to take supplements only as advised.

People who are at risk of low zinc intake include people with digestive disorders like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. These conditions can decrease the amount of zinc the body absorbs and increase the amounts lost in urine. Vegans and those who avoid meat and dairy foods can also be at risk, as these diets remove the top sources of zinc. People who drink heavy amounts of alcohol can also have difficulty absorbing zinc from their diet. BetterYou offers a range of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free supplements to help encourage proper nutrient intake for everyone.

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