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Zinc is such a common mineral that we sometimes take it for granted. New studies are showing that, as we age, zinc deficiencies are very prevalent mostly due to a lack of zinc in the diet. In the United States, about 12% of the population experience zinc deficiency, and perhaps as many as 40% of the elderly. (8) In one study, 35 – 45% of people over 60 didn’t even get half of the current RDA (recommended daily allowance) of zinc, which is 15mg/day. (1)
The impact of this silent but deadly deficiency is striking. There is good evidence now linking the age-related weakening of the immune system – called immunosenescence – to a lack of zinc. (2)
What Does Zinc Do, Anyway?
Zinc is required for more than 2000 reactions that involve genetic expressions, translating to thousands of preventative biological functions in the body. The major impact of zinc deficiencies appears to be correlated to the immune system, but new findings are linking zinc to multiple areas of health in the body. (3)
Zinc supplementation in the elderly is responsible for: (4)
- Restoring normal function of killer T cells
- Boosting white blood cell response to stress
- Improving cellular immunity and age survival rates
Zinc Supports Healthy Blood Sugar and Fat Metabolism
In one study, overweight individuals were given 30mg of zinc (twice the RDA) a day for one month. Researchers found a significant reduction in weight, body mass index (BMI), fasting and after-meal blood sugar levels, hemoglobin A1c (average blood sugar), and unhealthy blood lipids. In fact, the study demonstrated a 34 – 43% lower risk of glucose intolerance. (5, 6)
Get More Zinc – Here’s How:
According to this research, we should be making a special effort to get more zinc in our diet. The foods that contain the highest amounts of zinc in order of highest to lowest are:
cocoa or chocolate
To Supplement or Not to Supplement?
Researchers believe that it is difficult to utilize the zinc from dietary sources because many factors can compete with its absorption. One study showed that molecules in breads, cereals, grains and legumes bind with zinc and prevent its absorption. Spinach – although high in zinc –is also high in phytic acid, which competes with its absorption. These factors may explain why zinc supplementation is supported by science above and beyond dietary sources particularly for folks over 50. (7)
J Nutrition. 2002 Nov;132(11):3422-7.
Immun Aging. 2006;3:6.
British Medical Journal. March. 2003 22;326(7386):409
Ramsey H. Life Extension Mag. March 2014
Adv Pharm Bull. 2013;3(1):161-5
Saudi Med J. 2006 March;27(3):344-50