The winter storms have brought us some crazy weather over the last few months, whether it’s the rain in California or the snow storms on the east coast, the additional stress can weaken our immune system. This is when I tend to notice all the additional supplements at stores that are marketing the health benefits of zinc. Many of these products promising quickened recovery from the common cold. While most studies are inconclusive about the increased recovery period zinc may have; zinc has been shown to catalyze more than one hundred enzymes and assist in the cascade reactions which are necessary for the immune system to fight off pathogens.
Zinc has become more intriguing after a recent study published last month by the Children’s Hospital Research Institute (CHORI). The study demonstrated that a moderate increase in dietary zinc reduced the breaks in the DNA strands that make up leukocytes (immune system cells). The double-blind study tested the supplementation of zinc in hopes to replicate the effects of fortified crops that could, in turn, be used in regions that are zinc deficient. It is estimated that 25% of the world population suffers from zinc deficiency. Modern societies that are becoming dependent for zinc by additional cereal grains within the diet have demonstrated the lack of zinc within the diet and reduced levels of zinc absorption.
While the study was small, with just eighteen men and a duration of 6 weeks, the blood samples which were taken before and after the experiment displayed interesting results. The blood samples measured zinc homeostasis, DNA damage, DNA inflammation, and oxidative stress levels. Results found that while zinc levels increased, inflammation decreased, oxidative stress decreased, and leukocyte DNA damage decreased. These benefits from increased zinc consumption can in result help cure/prevent certain cardiovascular diseases and cancers.
While this is exciting, more studies, with larger samples need to replicate the results before we start major changes in how we look at zinc. Zinc should be easy to obtain while following a well-balanced diet. For anyone that follows a heavy grain or vegan diet should take watch for zinc deficiency.
Natural foods high in zinc include most of your meats, seafood, dairy, eggs, nuts, tofu, and beans. Feeling adventurous try something different, like an oyster or lobster. For those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is recommended to eat whole grains as opposed to refined products which are reduced in overall nutrient content. You may want to try PJ & J energy balls which will provide plenty of zinc in a tasty bite.