Zinc and General Health

  • Zinc boosts the immune system Zinc is involved in cell division and DNA replication and is therefore essential for the production of immune system cells.
  • Zinc is a component of the thymic hormone which controls and facilitates the maturation of lymphocytes [1,2].
  • Severe zinc deficiency depresses immune function [3]. Mild zinc deficiency is associated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections. [4-7]

Zinc and the Common Cold

  • Zinc may reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms by acting locally as an antiviral agent and astringent.
  • The effectiveness of zinc treatment (zinc lozenges, nasal sprays and nasal gels) on the severity and duration of cold symptoms remains controversial [8-12].
  • A review in 2007 from 14 different studies reported that half of the studies showed a beneficial effect and half showed no effect of zinc treatment [13].

Zinc and Men's Health

  • Zinc is needed for the production of healthy sperm and increases sperm count and motility [13].
  • Zinc is necessary to maintain normal levels of testosterone [14].
  • Zinc deficiency has been shown to predispose the prostrate gland to infection [15].

Zinc heals and protects skin

  • Zinc helps maintain the integrity of skin and topical zinc preparations are used to treat a variety of skin problems.
  • zinc oxide is used to treat nappy rash, chapped lips and dry skin. Zinc sulphate is used for the treatment of acne, cold sores and burns.
  • Internally, zinc stimulates cell division, connective tissue formation and transport of Vitamin A from the liver to the skin, helping to protect and repair body tissues especially the skin [17].

Zinc and athletic performance

  • Strenuous exercise causes loss of zinc through sweat and redistribution between blood plasma and red blood cells.
  • Athletes may develop zinc deficiency especially when exercise is combined with high carbohydrate diets which are commonly low in zinc.
  • A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system [18]

Zinc and chronic disease

  • The role of zinc in the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease is an emerging field of research [19].
  • Work by Dr. Beattie's research team suggests that zinc deficiency over a lifetime may encourage the development of the vascular disease known as atherosclerosis [20].
  • Studies on the impact of zinc status on vascular health and disease are on-going.

References

1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001

2. Beck FW, Prasad AS, Kaplan J, Fitzgerald JT, Brewer GJ. Changes in cytokine production and T cell subpopulations in experimentally induced zinc-deficient humans. Am J Physiol 1997;272:E1002-7.

3. Shankar AH, Prasad AS. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:447S-63S.

4. Bahl R, Bhandari N, Hambidge KM, Bhan MK. Plasma zinc as a predictor of diarrheal and respiratory morbidity in children in an urban slum setting. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68 (2 Suppl):414S-7S.

5. Brooks WA, Santosham M, Naheed A, Goswami D, Wahed MA, Diener-West M, et al. Effect of weekly zinc supplements on incidence of pneumonia and diarrhoea in children younger than 2 years in an urban, low-income population in Bangladesh: randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2005;366:999-1004.

6. Meydani SN, Barnett JB, Dallal GE, Fine BC, Jacques PF, Leka LS, et al. Serum zinc and pneumonia in nursing home elderly. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1167-73.

7. Black RE. Zinc deficiency, infectious disease and mortality in the developing world. J Nutr 2003;133:1485S-9S.

8. Hulisz D. Efficacy of zinc against common cold viruses: an overview. J Am Pharm Assoc (2003) 2004;44:594-603.

9. Prasad AS, Beck FW, Bao B, Snell D, Fitzgerald JT. Duration and severity of symptoms and levels of plasma interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor, and adhesion molecules in patients with common cold treated with zinc acetate. J Infect Dis 2008 ;197:795-802.

10. Turner RB, Cetnarowski WE. Effect of treatment with zinc gluconate or zinc acetate on experimental and natural colds. Clin Infect Dis 2000;31:1202-8.

11. Eby GA, Halcomb WW. Ineffectiveness of zinc gluconate nasal spray and zinc orotate lozenges in common-cold treatment: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Altern Ther Health Med 2006;12:34-8.

12. Marshall I. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2000;(2):CD001364. Caruso TJ, Prober CG, Gwaltney JM Jr. Treatment of naturally acquired common colds with zinc: a structured review. Clin Infect Dis 2007;45:569-74.

13. Caruso TJ, Prober CG, Gwaltney JM Jr. Treatment of naturally acquired common colds with zinc: a structured review. Clin Infect Dis 2007;45:569-74.

14. Wong WY, Merkus HM, Thomas CM, Menkveld R, Zielhuis GA and Steegers-Theunissen RP (2002) Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Fertil Steril 77,491–498.

15. Favier AE. The role of zinc in reproduction. Hormonal mechanisms. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1992 Jan-Mar;32:363-82. Review. PubMed PMID: 1375078.

16. Costello LC, Franklin RB. Novel role of zinc in the regulation of prostate citrate metabolism and its implications in prostate cancer. Prostate. 1998 Jun 1;35(4):285-96. Review. PubMed PMID: 9609552.

17. Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function. Ann Nutr Metab 2007;51:301-23.

18. Rink L, Gabriel P. Zinc and the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc 2000;59:541-52.

19. Beattie J.H. and Kwun I.S. (2004). Is zinc deficiency a risk factor for atherosclerosis? British Journal of Nutrition , 91 :177-181

20. Beattie J.H., Gordon M-J., Rucklidge G.J., Reid M.D., Duncan G.J., Horgan G.W., Cho Y.E. and Kwun I.S. (2008). Aorta protein networks in marginal and acute zinc deficiency. Proteomics , 8 : 2126-2135.