Many people are deficient in zinc, here’s why it’s crucial to have optimal levels…
Zinc is an essential mineral for many processes in the body, including prostate gland function, fertility, pregnancy, skin health, protein synthesis, immune system health, insulin control, and taste and smell senses.
Over 300 enzymes require zinc for their activation and nearly 2000 transcription factors require zinc for gene expression(14).
Large concentrations of zinc can be found in meat and some seafood—oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in Western diets.
Other good food sources include beans, nuts and certain other types of seafood (such as crab and lobster).
Zinc bioavailability & deficiency issues
The problem is that zinc is bound in many common foods, and isn’t able to be absorbed in the digestive tract.
Phytates are compounds present in whole-grains and legumes, that bind to zinc and inhibit its absorption.
The bioavailability of zinc from grains and plant foods is therefore much lower than that from animal foods.
A grain rich diet combined with a poor ability to retain zinc in the body means that zinc deficiency is extremely common, with an estimated 2 billion people in the developing world being deficient(15).
It is suspected that zinc deficiency rates are increasing with the increased consumption of phytates.
Those at greatest risk of a zinc deficiency include vegetarians, people with digestive issues, and those with low stomach acid levels.
Athletes or those who exercise regularly are also at a higher risk of deficiency, as zinc is lost through sweating.
Here are my top 8 reasons to ensure your zinc level is optimal:
1/ Take zinc to boost immunity
Zinc is an amazing antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and boost immunity.
A zinc deficiency can cause a reduction in the number of B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes (which contribute to immune defences).
A review paper in 2009 summarises that zinc supplementation has been found to be effective in a variety of conditions including diarrhoea, respiratory tract infections and common cold(7).
Zinc is also a constituent of many enzymes, including the powerful antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Next time you’re feeling a little run down, think zinc!
2/ Zinc can increase male fertility
Sperm contains a relatively high level of zinc, (and is the reason that sperm is white).
It protects the genetic material in the sperm from free radical damage and can help increase sperm production and motility(9).
Several studies have found that zinc supplementation may help treat male infertility(8).
3/ Zinc is important for female fertility and foetal health
But zinc isn’t only good for men
In females, it can boost immunity and supports hormone levels.
The need for zinc is higher during pregnancy, as it assists in the growth and development of the foetus.
Ensuring optimal zinc levels during pregnancy may also beneficially affect birth weight.
Zinc is an absolute must in any testosterone boosting protocol.
It increases the conversion of androstenedione to testosterone, and if coupled with high-intensity workouts, the body can produce even higher levels of testosterone.
In one study, 20 young men were given a zinc-restricted diet for 20 weeks while measuring serum testosterone levels.
After 20 weeks, a significant decrease in serum testosterone levels was noted (39.9 +/- 7.1nmol/L versus 10.6 +/- 3.6 nmol/L)(10).
The same study showed that zinc supplementation in older men over a period of 6 months significantly raised serum testosterone levels (8.3 +/- 6.3nmol/L to 16.0 +/- 4.4 nmol/L)(10).
5/ Zinc can enhance strength and athletic performance
Zinc supports an anabolic state by supporting key hormones such as human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), as well as testosterone.
This means you get better, faster results when combined with the right workout protocol.
A study in male wrestlers demonstrated that exhaustion exercise led to a significant inhibition of thyroid hormones and testosterone concentrations.
But 4 weeks of zinc supplementation prevented this, and it is therefore suggested that higher levels of zinc may enhance performance(11).
6/ Zinc can improve insulin sensitivity
Zinc plays a critical role in insulin sensitivity and glycaemic control, and a number of studies have shown the beneficial effects of zinc supplementation on metabolic markers.
Zinc ions are found in large concentrations around pancreatic beta cells (the cells that produce insulin).
Zinc is also involved in the synthesis(4), storage(5) and release of insulin(6).
Studies have documented that zinc levels are lower in obese individuals(1) and a study published in 2012 found that insulin sensitivity improved, without changes in leptin levels, in non-diabetic obese subjects on zinc supplementation(12).
Poor insulin regulation can impair glycaemic control, leading to poorly managed blood sugar levels, weight gain, and the inability to lose weight.
7/ Take zinc for aromatase inhibition
Having optimal levels of testosterone is great for strength, fertility, libido, immune function and overall health.
One of the biggest problems for men, and something we often see at Optimised, is an increased conversion of testosterone to oestrogen (aromatisation).
A zinc deficiency has shown to increase aromatisation(19).
8/ Skin health
Zinc is an essential mineral for skin health, with several studies having shown that zinc sulphate and zinc gluconate have been effective in acne treatment(16,17,18).
Zinc supplementation may also be helpful in atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis (which begins as ‘cradle cap’ in infants).
A zinc tally test can give a quick and easy indication of zinc status.
While useful, this method of testing isn’t 100% reliable.
The most effective test currently available is a glycated red blood cell test, and is one we use regularly at Optimised.
To your future success,
Matt & the personal training team
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Marreiro DN, Fisberg M, Cozzolino SM (2004). Zinc nutritional status and its relationships with hyperinsulinemia in obese children and adolescents. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2004;100:137–49.
CellsKira G. Slepchenko, Yang V. Li (2012). Research Article Rising Intracellular Zinc by Membrane Depolarization and Glucose in Insulin-Secreting Clonal HIT-T15 Beta. Experimental Diabetes Research ID 190309.
Aspinwall CA, Brooks SA, Kennedy RT, Lakey JRT (1997). Effects of Intravesicular H+ and Extracellular H+ and Zn2+ on Insulin Secretion in Pancreatic Beta Cells. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 272, 31308-31314.
Emdin SO, Dodson GG, Cutfield JM, Cutfield SM (1980). Role of zinc in insulin biosynthesis. Some possible zinc-insulin interactions in the pancreatic B-cell. Diabetologia. 19(3):174-82.
Colsoul B, Vennekens R, Nilius B (2011). Transient receptor potential cation channels in pancreatic β cells. Rev Physiol Biochem Pharmacol. 161:87-110.
Rutter GA (2010). Think zinc: New roles for zinc in the control of insulin secretion. Islets. Jan-Feb;2(1):49-50.
Prasad AS (2009). Zinc: role in immunity, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, Nov;12(6):646-52.
Madding CI, Jacob M, Ramsay VP, Sokol RZ (1986). Serum and semen zinc levels in normozoospermic and oligozoospermic men. Ann Nutr Metab. 30(4):213-8.
Yamaguchi S, Miura C, Kikuchi K, Celino FT, Agusa T, Tanabe S, Miura T (2009). Zinc is an essential trace element for spermatogenesis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A Jun 30;106(26):10859-64.
Prasad AS, Mantzoros CS, Beck FW, Hess JW, Brewer GJ (1996). Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. May;12(5):344-8.
Kilic M, Baltaci AK, Gunay M, Gökbel H, Okudan N, Cicioglu I (2006). The effect of exhaustion exercise on thyroid hormones and testosterone levels of elite athletes receiving oral zinc. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. Feb-Apr;27(1-2):247-52.
Marreiro DN, Geloneze B, Tambascia MA, Lerário AC, Halpern A, Cozzolino SM (2006). Effect of zinc supplementation on serum leptin levels and insulin resistance of obese women. Biol Trace Elem Res. 112:109–118.
MacDonald RS (2000). The role of zinc in growth and cell proliferation. J Nutr. May;130(5S Suppl):1500S-8S.
Prasad AS (2012). Discovery of human zinc deficiency: 50 years later. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 26(2-3):66-9.
Prasad AS (2003). Zinc deficiency. BMJ, 326(7386): 409-410.
Eur J Dermatol. 2000 Jun;10(4):269-73. Efficacy and safety study of two zinc gluconate regimens in the treatment of inflammatory acne. Meynadier J.
Dreno B, Amblard P, Agache P, Sirot S, Litoux P (1989). Low doses of zinc gluconate for inflammatory acne. Acta Derm Venereol. 69(6):541-3.
Michaëlsson G, Juhlin L, Vahlquist A (1977). Effects of oral zinc and vitamin A in acne. Arch Dermatol.113(1):31-6.
Om AS, Chung KW (1996). Dietary Zinc Deficiency Alters 5a-Reduction and Aromatization of Testosterone and Androgen and Estrogen Receptors in Rat Liver. Nutri Vol 126:842-848.