Zinc is a mineral, which plays several key roles in our body. Being an essential nutrient zinc has to be consumed through external sources, as our body cannot synthesise it. Some of the Zinc-rich foods are meat, seafood, nuts, legumes and whole grains. As per ICMR, an adult male needs 12 mg and female needs 10 mg of zinc per day.
Some of the major functions of zinc are boosting immunity, wound healing, synthesis of our genetic material, assisting enzymatic reactions for proper growth and development.
Let’s discuss the major functions of zinc in detail.
1. Boost immune health - Our body requires zinc to have a strong immune system as it is needed for the functioning, signalling of immune cells and for augmenting the action of T-cells. Lack of zinc decreases the efficacy of the cells and makes us prone to infections.
2. Powerful antioxidant - Zinc acts as a powerful antioxidant in the body. It reduces oxidative stress and protects our cells from getting damaged with the effect of free radicals. This ability again contributes to keeping the immune system strong.
3. Promotes wound healing - Zinc has popularly been used during treatment of skin burns, wounds and ulcers because of its potential to reduce inflammation and assist in collagen synthesis. Hence, lack of zinc delays the healing of wounds. It was observed in a study that supplementation with zinc resulted in an enhanced recovery rate of diabetic foot ulcers.
4. Reduces risk of neurological disorders - Zinc being a powerful antioxidant shields our brain against the mutilating effect of free radicals. As they are associated with an increased risk of age-rated diseases like macular degeneration and Alzheimer.
5. Regulates insulin - Zinc has been shown to influence the synthesis, release and reserve of insulin hormone. Hence, low levels of zinc might become a causative factor of developing diabetes in the long run.
6. Regulates DNA synthesis - Our genetic material or DNA gives us an identity. Zinc plays an essential role in DNA synthesis by influencing the hormone regulation of cell division, the action of pituitary growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I). It acts as a cofactor of many enzymes involved in DNA, RNA and protein synthesis.
7.Needed for Thyroid gland functioning - Our body requires zinc for producing thyroid hormones and deficiency of zinc leads to hypothyroidism which is further associated with many health issues.
To conclude, zinc is a crucial mineral required for proper growth, development and DNA synthesis. It is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Hence, a diet should be rich in food with zinc to meet daily needs. However, care should be taken before choosing zinc supplements and should be consumed only after doctor’s consultation. Too much of zinc is harmful to our health and might result in toxicity leading to loss of appetite, vomiting, headaches, weak immunity, abdominal pain and altered cholesterol profile.