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Last Updated on December 26, 2020 by Paula Dunbar
Zinc and the immune system go hand in hand. Zinc is a powerhouse for the immune system. And it’s also important for brain function, gut health, and insulin regulation. It is even shown to help prevent cancer and can even help the body fight cancer during treatment.
Zinc is a mineral found in:
- Red meat
- Shellfish, especially oysters
- Legumes like chickpeas, lentils and beans
- Seeds like pumpkin, squash and sesame seeds
- Dairy foods like milk or cheese
- Whole grains have some zinc
- Potatoes (although most other vegetables have little)
- Dark chocolate 🙂
List from Healthline’s The Top10 Best Foods That Are High in Zinc (West, 2018).
Zinc got more fascinating the more I researched for this article. And it also has important functions in the brain.
In earlier times, zinc deficiency was rare. Today, it is estimated that 20% of the world’s population is deficient in zinc, or 2 billion people, according to a 2017 paper (Wessels et. al). Zinc deficiency is the 5th leading cause of loss of ‘healthy life years’ in developing countries. And nearly 30% of the elderly population is deficient in zinc worldwide.
The authors of that paper also posit that some chronic diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, diabetes, impaired cognitive function and more are the result of zinc deficiency or an imbalance of that and other nutrients (copper, iron and calcium). Let’s get into it.
Basics of Zinc
According to Healthline’s Helen West (2018), there are 300 enzymes and other processes in the body that require zinc to perform their functions. The body doesn’t store zinc so we need to eat foods containing zinc or supplement it to get enough.
There are multiple ‘zinc transporters’ in the body, depending on its function in different parts of the body. And a newer study found that the zinc transporters in the brains of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients has gone awry (Yu et. al, 2019).
These researchers even suggest that fixing these transporters in the brain could even cure AD, and possibly other ageing and neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s and Parkinson’s.
Zinc is also involved in production of DNA and the mitochondria. It pervades most every cell in the body. In fact, it is a structural component of many proteins. Deficiency can lead to mental lethargy, growth retardation and immune dysfunction (Yu et. al, 2019).
Related Article: Brain Nutrition Facts
Role in the Immune System
Zinc is a sort of communicator with the immune system. It tips off the rest of the immune system when there are invaders. So it would seem if you don’t have enough zinc, the immune system might not get engaged when a new threat is introduced. Including cancer (Skrajnowska and Bobrowska-Korczak [S&B], 2019). And Covid-19.
Zinc deficiency results in lower T-cells (among others), one of the types of cells instrumental in the immune system that go in search of invaders in the body. In essence, zinc deficiency lowers the body’s resistance to disease and invaders. The authors above noted that when zinc was supplemented, the immune system went back to normal.
S&B (2019) say that the immune system is very sensitive to changes in the levels of zinc in the body. In fact, every immune response is related to zinc levels, whether directly or indirectly.
Dr. Sherry Rogers, the anti-medication doctor who touts wellness through nutrients, can’t say enough about getting enough zinc in the diet. In every edition of her monthly newsletter, she at least mentions something about taking zinc, as it helps the immune system. In fact, it’s critical for the immune system. (You can look into subscribing to her newsletters here: Prestige Publishing).
Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Helper
Zinc is also an excellent antioxidant. It helps regulate the rogue cells, free radicals, which are roaming through the body looking for another cell to complete its missing electron. Too many of these are what causes many disease states, including cancer. Zinc helps the immune system regulate these. Free radicals can be caused from stress, environmental stress, toxins, poor diet, or alcohol. You get the idea.
Zinc and the Brain and Alzheimer’s
The study I read about Zinc and Alzheimer’s (Yu et. al, 2019) is quite complex and scientific but I did get some insight from it. Mainly that zinc increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in the brain.
Studies have shown that in AD, the zinc transporters are disrupted, and that this seems connected to ‘senile plaques’ in AD. The study went on to say that finding a way to regulate zinc in the brain could be a cure for AD and other neurodegenerative diseases.
In addition, with adequate zinc in the brain, there is an antidepressant mechanism. S&D (2019) note that zinc is not only important for the immune system but also regulates the nervous system. It can help prevent or treat affective disorders, especially depression.
A Little Goes A Long Way – Dosing
Zinc is one of those nutrients where dosing is very important. It’s not one that ‘if a little is good, a lot must be better’ kind of nutrients. Too much is not a good thing either as it can deplete your copper stores, which are also important. The experts say that any dose under 50 mg per day is good.
I take a multi-mineral supplement called Only Trace Minerals from Life Extension. It has 20mg of zinc and also contains Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Molybdenum, Boron, and Vanadium. These minerals are like a symphony and work better as a whole. I noticed a difference in my thinking right away. Click the bottle to see the details.
Where We Are Now
I hope you learned a lot about how important zinc is to our immune system and also for our brains. You can see how important zinc is for our immune systems, something we are all paying attention to during this pandemic. Try it today.
If you have any questions, comments or experience with this topic, please share it in the Comments section below. Your email address will remain hidden and your privacy is my priority.
Thank you for reading today. Please subscribe to my newsletter for updates.
Skrajnowska D, Bobrowska-Korczak B. Role of Zinc in Immune System and Anti-Cancer Defense Mechanisms. Nutrients. 2019;11(10):2273. Published 2019 Sep 22. doi:10.3390/nu11102273
Wessels, I., Maywald, M., Rink, L. (2017). Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function. Published 2017 Nov 25. doi.org/10.3390/nu9121286 (https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/12/1286/htm)
West, H. (2018). The 10 Best Foods That Are High in Zinc. Healthline. Published 2018 April19 to https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-foods-high-in-zinc
Xu Y, Xiao G, Liu L, Lang M. Zinc transporters in Alzheimer’s disease. Mol Brain. 2019;12(1):106. Published 2019 Dec 9. doi:10.1186/s13041-019-0528-2
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