Episode 24: Zinc’s Crucial Impact On Health And Weight Loss

The Importance of Zinc

Zinc- How one mineral can have a huge impact on your Weight

Zinc is often used in remedies for the common cold or sore throat because it has an important impact on your immune system. But your immune system is only one of many systems in your body that depend on zinc.  Zinc is the most abundant trace element in your cells and it is known that at least 300 enzymes in your body depend on zinc. These enzymes regulate things like your DNA and gene expression.

Zinc deficiency can cause a reduced sense of both taste and smell. Other signs include dermatitis, acne, thinning hair and hair loss, white spots on the nails, slow wound healing, age-related macular degeneration. In children, deficiencies can cause stunted growth, chronic diarrhea, recurring infections, impaired cognitive function and impaired sexual maturation. This trace nutrient is crucial for male reproductive health. Zinc insufficiency may result in impaired testicular function (Low T), low sperm count and poor sperm motility.

How is Zinc related to Weight Loss?

Zinc also effects many systems in your body that can have an impact on your ability to lose weight. Zinc is required for your body to make an important antioxidant called SOD that protects all of your cells from potential disease causing damage and excessive aging. If your mitochondria are not protected by adequate levels of antioxidants you will lose some of your ability to convert calories from fat and sugar into energy. This can result in sluggishness and often weight gain.

Zinc helps regulate hormones such as estrogen, testosterone and vitamin D.  The balance between testosterone and estrogen is crucial for maintaining lean body mass and low fat levels. Vitamin D is required for several metabolic functions including sugar metabolism and thyroid activity. Without zinc, your testosterone, estrogen and vitamin D will not be able to do their jobs.

An important zinc-dependent enzyme known as IDE is required for proper insulin function. Those with insulin resistance such as those with type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and PCOS need adequate zinc levels to support IDE and proper processing and degradation of insulin. Without it, the fat storing effects of insulin may be amplified.

Who is at risk of being low in Zinc?

Impaired digestion and nutrient absorption, such as inflammatory bowel conditions, celiac disease, and low stomach acid reduce zinc absorption. Chronic stress as well as heavy alcohol consumption and poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of zinc deficiency.

Absorption of zinc from foods varies from 5% to 50%, depending on the source. Bioavailability from plant foods is low- only about 5-15%, while bioavailability of zinc from animal foods is higher- around 30-50%. Animal foods high in zinc include oysters, beef and pork. Nuts, beans/legumes and seeds are good plant sources of zinc. Pumpkin seeds are frequently cited for their high zinc content. But plant foods contain phytic acid which reduces absorption of zinc and other minerals. This could be a problem for those following a plant-based diet, particularly if the diet is high in grains. Because of this, vegans tend to have lower zinc status than non-vegetarians. Vegetarian females may be at greater risk than males due to lower overall caloric intake, which is more common among younger females. Other factors that may lead to poor zinc status in adolescent females include poor food choices, strenuous exercise, and nutrients lost through menstruation.

How do I know if I am low in Zinc?

Assessing zinc status can be done by the commonly employed zinc taste test.  Zinc repletion typically resolves many unpleasant effects of insufficiency rapidly—sometimes within days so the results of short-term supplementation may be an indirect way to determine zinc sufficiency.  Zinc supplementation should be approached in the context of zinc’s interaction with iron and copper. Very high zinc intakes can impair both iron and copper absorption. Similarly, iron supplementation at high levels may impair absorption of zinc.

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Intro song: It’s Time by Big Sandy and His Fly Rite Boys
Outro song: Take My Mind Far Away by Joshua James Hunt

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