Zinc is an essential micronutrient necessary to maintain a healthy immune system, building proteins, triggering enzymes, and creating DNA. If this is not enough, zinc also helps cells in the body communicating, as it’s used by the body as a neurotransmitter.
Notwithstanding its importance, it has been reported that as many as 2 billion people around the world have diets that are deficient in this important mineral, and even in affluent countries, such as the US, about 12% of the population is probably at risk of zinc deficiency. This figure raises to almost 40% if we take into consideration the elderly.
A new research has unveiled, for the first time, a biological mechanism by which zinc deficiency can develop with age, leading to a decline of the immune system and increased inflammation associated with many health problems, including cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease and diabetes.
In other words, we should give zinc more credit, especially as we age!
Where you can find zinc
Zinc is naturally found associated with proteins in such meats as beef and poultry, and in even higher levels in shellfish such as oysters (which are the best source of zinc). Dairy products, such as yogurt, are also a good source of zinc.
If you’re vegetarian or vegan you should be even more careful, because even though zinc is available in plants, it poorly absorbed from them.
However, seeds (such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, watermelon seeds, etc.) are high in this micronutrient, and also dark chocolate is a great source of zinc.
Since inadequate intake is so prevalent in the elderly, experts suggest that they should usually consider taking a multivitamin to ensure adequate levels (also vegans and vegetarians should take note).
"The elderly are the fastest growing population in the U.S. and are highly vulnerable to zinc deficiency," said Emily Ho, an associate professor with the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and international expert on the role of dietary zinc. "They don't consume enough of this nutrient and don't absorb it very well."
Ho said that she would recommend all senior citizens take a dietary supplement that includes the full RDA for zinc, which is 11 milligrams a day for men and 8 milligrams for women.
Not too much though...
Assuring adequate intake of zinc in our diet is crucial but you don’t want to go the other way around, exceeding with it.
Levels of zinc intake above 40 milligrams per day should be avoided, researchers said, because at very high levels they can interfere with absorption of other necessary nutrients, including iron and copper.
The Iron You
The above story is reprinted from materials, provided by Oregon State University, via EurekAlert!