Zinc is an essential element, necessary for sustaining all life. It is estimated that 3000 of the hundreds of thousands of proteins in the human body contain zinc prosthetic groups. In addition, there are over a dozen types of cells in the human body that secrete zinc ions, and the roles of these secreted zinc signals in medicine and health are now being actively studied. Intriguingly, brain cells in the mammalian forebrain are one type of cell that secretes zinc, along with its other neuronal messenger substances. Cells in the salivary gland, prostate, immune system and intestine are other types that secrete zinc.
Zinc is an activator of certain enzymes, such as carbonic anhydrase. Carbonic anhydrase is important in the transport of carbon dioxide in vertebrate blood.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that helps the body maintain the immune, reproductive, and digestive systems. It is needed for healthy skin, bones, hair, nails and eyes. It is essential for making growth hormones and the important male hormone testosterone.
Zinc is more concentrated in certain parts of the body such as the inner ear, eyes (especially the retina)and thymus and prostate glands. Getting enough zinc in your diet is crucial to the health of these organs.
Zinc may also speed your recovery from cold and flu, canker sores, sore throat, and skin injuries, and reduce the symptoms of tinnitus, acne, and eye problems.
Zinc is found in oysters, and to a far lesser degree in most animal proteins, beans, nuts, whole grains, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Phytates, which are found in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other products, have been known to decrease zinc absorption.
Clinical studies have found that zinc, combined with antioxidants, may delay progression of age-related macular degeneration, but the effect is extremely small and not likely to be clinically important. Significant dietary intake of zinc has also recently been shown to impede the onset of flu. Soil conservation analyzes the vegetative uptake of naturally occurring zinc in many soil types.
The symptoms of severe zinc deficiency include the slowing or cessation of growth and development, delayed sexual maturation, characteristic skin rashes, chronic and severe diarrhea, immune system deficiencies, impaired wound healing, diminished appetite, impaired taste sensation, night blindness, swelling and clouding of the corneas, and behavioral disturbances.