Written by: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
In my last article, I discussed the little-known epidemic of zinc deficiency and the easy ways you can boost your levels of this important nutrient.
As you are about to discover, this is critically important. Below are six ways that a zinc-rich diet can boost your quality of life, reduce your risk for disease and maximize your healthy longevity.
1 – Promote Healthy Cells and Be Cancer-Free For Life
As your body’s cells – and the DNA within them – become damaged, the risk for mutations (and therefore cancer) increases. That’s why antioxidants are so important. And while zinc is better known as a dietary mineral, it is also a powerful antioxidant nutrient that helps protect cells from the ravages of oxidative damage.
Zinc is also vital for healthy cell proliferation. In fact, when zinc levels are too low, abnormal cell development and the risk of cancerous tumors is increased.
Of course, zinc is also a key component of the immune system – your body’s first line of defense against cancer. In fact, zinc is required by your body to produce T-cells – the cellular defenders that are constantly on the lookout for viruses and bacteria, as well as mutated and abnormal cells. That’s why low levels of zinc are correlated with reduced T-cell counts.
It’s no wonder that research shows that zinc deficiency is linked to cancers of the skin, colon, ovaries, lungs, prostate and breast, head and neck, as well as leukemia. One study, published in Nutrition and Cancer found that 65 percent of patients with head and neck cancer had cellular zinc concentrations that were considered deficient.
But cancer is not the only degenerative disease where zinc plays a critical role. If you’re concerned about diabetes and sculpting a lean body, zinc can help there too.
2 – Boost Insulin Sensitivity, Reduce Body Fat and Prevent Diabetes
Zinc plays a crucial role in healthy insulin metabolism by:
1. Binding to insulin so that it is stored in the pancreas and released in response to elevated blood sugar
2. Boosting insulin sensitivity
3. Reducing inflammation in cells – a key factor in insulin sensitivity
Without sufficient zinc in the diet, insulin resistance can develop, setting the stage for diabetes and weight gain.
In addition to its connection with insulin, zinc has also been shown to boost leptin levels. This is critical to a lean physique, because leptin is known as the “satiety hormone.” It helps send the “I’m full” signal to the brain, resulting in fewer calories consumed and less body fat.
And that’s not the only way zinc helps to sculpt a better body. With its key role in the production of anabolic hormones, zinc helps to boost strength and athletic performance too.
3 – Increase Strength & Overcome “Low T” Naturally
Zinc is a crucial factor in your body’s production and release of testosterone, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Without the adequate release of these hormones, you won’t enjoy the maximum strength gains or increases in muscle mass from your training.
Inadequate zinc levels have been shown to be related to low testosterone (or “low T”) – a condition which affects 24 percent of men over 30 – according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
And while low testosterone is best known for causing what is often known as “male menopause,” it has also been linked to an increased risk of depression and heart disease. And optimizing testosterone is just one way that zinc protects the heart…
4 – Boost Cardiovascular Health
It also plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of the endothelium – the lining of the blood vessels. When the endothelium becomes damaged and inflamed, plaques can occur, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.
Research published in Diabetes Care found that diabetic patients with low serum zinc were at a significantly higher risk for heart disease and heart attack than those with normal zinc levels.
And the benefits of optimizing your zinc intake don’t end with protection against cancer… a reduced risk of diabetes… increases in muscle building and anti-aging hormones… and reduced chances of a heart attack or stroke.
Recent research conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that a zinc deficiency may also play a critical role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
5 – Boost Brain Health, Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk and ADHD
When proteins lose their shape, they stop working correctly and can become tangled and clumped together. These tangled proteins are a hallmark Alzheimer’s. But zinc is known for helping proteins to maintain their correct molecular structure.
It is also essential in neurotransmitter function and is part of an enzyme that nourishes the brain membrane with nutrients. This important for memory, cognition and behavior.
In fact, kids with behavior issues or “ADHD” often have low zinc levels. A study of 400 children diagnosed with ADHD found that 150 mg per day of zinc sulfate improved their behavior, and reduced hyperactivity and impulsiveness compared to a placebo.
6 – Boost Mood & Alleviate Depression
With its vital role in the brain and in neurotransmitter function, it’s no surprise that low zinc levels are often found in people suffering from depression. And the more depressed someone is, the lower the zinc level, according to research published in Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology.
The good news is that dietary and supplemental zinc has been shown to improve or alleviate symptoms of depression and boost energy levels. Getting adequate zinc helps to increase serotonin receptors in the brain and unlock the mood boosting effects of this “feel good hormone.”
Get More Zinc For a Healthier Life
With the numerous interconnected roles zinc plays in fostering wellness and preventing disease, it’s essential to ensure that you’re getting (and absorbing) enough.
Unfortunately, the ability to absorb zinc declines with age. It is estimated that 40 percent of seniors in the U.S. are zinc deficient, according to research conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State.
In addition to filling your plate with the zinc-rich foods our ancestors enjoyed – including grass-fed beef, liver, lamb, pork, chicken, oysters and other wild seafood – consider talking with your doctor about getting your zinc serum levels tested if you believe you may be deficient.
Read more articles by Kelley Herring here.
Kelley Herring is author of more than a dozen books on nutrition and natural healing. She is also the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, which has just released their newest product – Better Bread – a 100% Paleo bread mix you can whip up in 5 minutes flat.
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