The Importance of Zinc!

Most of our patients that have vision problems are zinc deficient. While we emphasize the importance of Zinc for vision, it is also important for many other reasons. It turns out that zinc is a cofactor for over 500 biochemical reactions in the body, most of them happening in the brain. That means your brain health, such as memory, focus, mood, and your senses depend on zinc. Your taste buds also zinc dependent, so if food doesn’t “taste like anything” anymore, you could be zinc deficient. This is why we can check for zinc with the Zinc Tally Taste test. If you cannot taste the zinc flavor, then you are deficient in zinc! Being deficient in zinc also means you don’t have enough stomach acid and you are not digesting your food properly. It turns out that zinc is necessary for the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and you need stomach acid to absorb zinc. This is what we call a “catch-22”. I suspect that this is probably why reversing zinc deficiency can be a slow process. If you are zinc deficient, and you haven’t passed the “zinc test” after taking it for 3 months, you should take zinc with HCl Betaine supplement. That way, you are more likely to absorb the zinc that you need.

The most common cause of zinc deficiency is stress and who aren’t stressed these days! If you are vegetarian you are also more likely to be zinc deficient, because the foods that are high in zinc are animal products. Another reason for having low level of zinc is exercise, due to losing zinc while sweating. However, this does not mean you should stop exercising. Just make sure to replenish the body with zinc afterwards by eating foods containing zinc or taking your supplement. I have included a list of foods high in zinc at the end of this article. As you will see, most of these foods are not found in a typical diet, hence it is difficult to get zinc from food sources for most people. If you use or have used birth control pills you are also quite likely deficient in zinc. Being exposed to environmental toxins such as bisphenol A (BPA plastics) can bind to zinc and disrupt zinc pathways. If your body is full of plastics it prevents you from absorbing zinc. You can do a urine test for plastic toxins such as styrene and phthalates to determine if your body is holding on to plastics. This is something to consider if you cannot “pass the zinc test” after 6 months of taking a high dose zinc supplement. If you are high in plastics, it is necessary to remove these through a specific detoxification program.
If you wondering if you are zinc deficient, here are some symptoms that indicates that you could be:
Decreased appetite and meat avoidance
Decreased taste and smell
Nausea and bloating during feeding
Insomnia and poor sleep habits (you need zinc to make melatonin)
Depression
Attention difficulties
Decreased uptake of essential fatty acids
Memory issues
Pain

Foods high in Zinc – doses given as per 100 grams of food:
Oysters 182 mg
Wheat germ 17 mg
Veal liver 12 mg
Sesame flour and tahini (Sesame butter- often used in hummus) 4.6 mg
Lean roast beef 10 mg
Dried pumpkin and squash seeds 10 mg
Dried watermelon seeds 10 mg
Cocoa powder/chocolate (yeah!) 6.8 mg
Lamb 4.2-8.7 mg depending on the cut of meat
Peanuts 3.3 mg

As a last note, zinc is also important for your immune system so make sure to take your zinc now that we are in the winter months and flu season!

Wishing you a healthy and happy 2011!