Zinc - a vital trace element

Zinc is indispensable for our health. The trace element plays a role in a variety of metabolic reactions: it is involved in the function of about 300 enzymes of cell metabolism and contained in 50 enzymes. Zinc is important for growth, skin, insulin storage and protein synthesis, sperm production and the immune system. Zinc is an essential trace element and indispensable for numerous processes in our body. So the immune function of our body is dependent on the zinc balance.

Zinc: function and effect

Adequate zinc supply during the growth period, ie in childhood and adolescence, is particularly important - zinc deficiency can lead to growth and developmental delays. Zinc is needed for cell division. Thus, it is also an important trace element for the skin and connective tissue and for wound healing after injury or surgery is essential.

The body's defense cells also need zinc; a sufficiently high zinc intake strengthens the immune system. It also has an antiviral effect and at the same time improves the mucosal structure, making the attachment and penetration of viruses difficult. Hence his ability to shorten the duration of colds. In addition, zinc has an anti-oxidative effect, ie it counteracts free radicals.

The anti-inflammatory properties of zinc not only help with numerous skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis, but also inflammation of the stomach and intestinal mucosa, such as gastritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and celiac disease.

Zinc drugs also have a positive effect on cirrhosis and diabetes mellitus, as there is often zinc deficiency in both cases. Zinc is of course not a panacea, but improves the therapeutic success.

Zinc deficiency: Typical consequences

Too little zinc in the body can - according to its diverse function - have numerous consequences, especially:

  • Hair loss, cracked and dry skin, dermatitis, brittle hair and nails, reduced wound healing and dermatitis
  • in children growth disorders
  • anorexia
  • night-blindness
  • impotence in men
  • Weakening the immune system
  • limited ability to work

Emergence of zinc deficiency

A zinc deficiency can arise either through an increased need (for example pregnant and breastfeeding), an increased loss (for example athletes lose zinc over the sweat) or a reduced admission. For example, elderly people often do not absorb enough zinc through their diet because they have lost their appetite and are unbalanced due to dental problems.

Vegetarians and vegans are also at risk because they absorb a lot of phytic acid through the plant-based diet. It forms compounds that are insoluble in zinc so that the body can no longer absorb zinc. In addition, the zinc supply may be critical even during a reduction diet, especially if less than 1, 500 kilocalories are taken daily over a longer period of time.

4 facts about zinc - © Dana Tentis

Zinc demand by groups of people

Zinc daily with food is necessary because the body has no memory. The German Society for Nutrition recommends a daily intake of ten milligrams of zinc for men, seven milligrams for women and ten to eleven milligrams for breastfeeding and pregnant women. Also, physical stress and stress should increase the zinc requirement, so that in such situations increased intake may be useful.

In addition, athletes, seniors, diabetics and women who take estrogen supplements and people who drink alcohol regularly, should pay attention to a sufficient zinc intake.
Since a permanently excessive zinc intake can have negative health effects, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) recommends that if there is insufficient dietary zinc intake daily, at most 6.5 mg of zinc should be absorbed through dietary supplements.

Zinc in food

Zinc is easily absorbed through food.

The zinc richest food is by far the oyster. Then follow:

  • beef
  • Sea fish and sea fruits
  • Milk products (especially cheese)
  • eggs
  • Whole grain products

Zinc from animal foods is more usable - more than half of the average daily intake of zinc is derived from food of animal origin. The processing also has an influence on the zinc content of the food - so the degree of milling of grain is decisive for the zinc content of flour.

Zinc and Vitamin C

The intake of zinc in the small intestine is reduced by phytic acid (contained in plant foods), tannins (in tea and coffee) and high iron, calcium, copper or cadmium intake. The simultaneous intake of protein (for example, the amino acids histidine and cysteine) or citric acid, however, increases the absorption.

The diverse and health-protecting metabolic effects of zinc are meaningfully supplemented and supported by vitamin C - it is considered a cofactor for zinc and increases its effectiveness. Therefore, in finished preparations from the pharmacy or drugstore often both substances are included together.

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