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The Importance of Zinc

After analysing canine diets for many years, I noticed it was hard to meet requirements for zinc. This is because zinc is found in small quanities in many foods.

There is some zinc in eggs and other shellfish such as clams and crabs, nuts (pine nuts, cashews, almonds), seeds (pumpkin and sesame), whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils. The best sources include beef, ostrich venison and oysters. Interestingly, oysters have long been considered an aphrodisiac; there may be some truth in this as zinc is vital for fertility, libido and reproduction!

Zinc is the second most prevalent mineral in the body after iron and required by most cells. One of our greatest antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) requires zinc which helps to repair damage from oxygen metabolism; making it very important, especially in our toxic world. It is involved in over 300 enzyme reactions chemical reactions, working as a co-factor. This includes our immune system, digestive system, making of red blood cells, replication, inflammatory and detoxifying processes. Most likely why we are finding out that low zinc levels can have wide-reaching symptoms and consequences.

Zinc helps to create a protective barrier in our mucous membranes. It is also needed to make collagen, control inflammation and cellular replication. No surprise then that I often find dogs with low levels suffer from cysts, dermatitis or pyoderma, and poor gut health! But are we getting enough zinc in our diets? The RDA for Zinc in the UK is 7 mg - 9.5 mg per day for adults. Whilst our diets most likely provide around 9mg it seems this level is suboptimal for many; helping to prevent a deficiency but not necessarily keeping us in optimal health. Researchers think we need 17mg - 20mg of zinc per day for optimal health; with the European Food Safety Authority suggesting an upper limit of 25mg daily for adults, so maybe in time the RDA will be increased as scientists find out more. It may be worth considering taking advice from a professional to assess your diet if you suffer from poor wound healing, eczema or acne, given zinc’s role. Also if you get recurrent infections, as zinc activates immune cells.

Interestingly, Covid research has demonstrated the importance of zinc for our sense of smell, as many people losing their sense of smell were found to have low levels.

In our older years, absorption for many nutrients decreases and so you may be at risk of low levels if you are over 60 years old or if you drink a lot of alcohol.

If you are pre-diabetic it is worth speaking to your doctor, zinc binds to insulin receptors helping to reduce blood sugar with low levels being common in diabetics.

Zinc also promotes healthy digestion as zinc is needed to produce stomach acid and digestive enzymes that help us break down and digest food and important for a healthy appetite. It is well worth analysing your zinc levels if you are a strict vegan diet, given high intakes of phytic acid which may reduce absorption. Also because plant forms of zinc have lower absorption rates compared to zinc found in animal sources.

Other signs of low zinc can be gastro issues, urinary issues, alopecia, a metallic taste in your mouth, loss of appetite, low mood, irregular periods, and prostate problems.

It is never a good idea to supplement without taking advice - and unless it is necessary. Nutrients need to be balanced with each other, and excess of one can pose as much as a problem as much sub-optimal levels. Best to speak with a nutritionist or use a reputable company such as Cytoplan. In general we avoid oxide forms of zinc due to poor absorption and food state minerals are absorbed better, which Cytoplan do. But, if you are thinking of increasing your zinc intake, try including the foods mentioned above.

It is also important to consider how you prepare your food. We have also lost our ancestral wisdom. Our ancestors knew of ways to preparing foods to absorb them better. It is good idea to soak, sprout or ferment grains, seeds and legumes to increase zinc absorption and reduce phytic acid which can theoretically reduce absorption. I would also say avoid caffeine and milk close to meal times as this reduces the absorption of zinc too (as well as other nutrients). #nutritionaltherapy

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