Zinc and Your Health
Zinc is a trace element in all multicellular organisms. In human beings it is an essential dietary mineral with an established daily value, and thus must be obtained from the foods we eat. Zinc signaling plays a crucial role in the communication of immune cells while deficiency in zinc has been associated with a weakened immune system. Its use to fight off the common cold and flu has generated some buzz in the past years, and there is an abundance of literature on this claim.
Strengthens the Immune System
Elemental zinc has been widely touted as the mineral that boosts the immune system, for deficiency has been noted to result in chronic disorders and poor prognosis. Especially in developing countries where deficiency is profusely widespread, recovery from otherwise mild illnesses like influenza may take weeks. Populations with healthy levels of zinc clear these diseases in a matter of days.
White blood cells are a major constituent of the immune system, and the body’s primary defense against foreign materials. They are located all through the human body, but concentrated in lymph nodes and in the blood. A decreased in the overall count of white blood cells in the blood always translates to greater risk of contracting a disease in the form of infection.
Special kinds of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, or T cells, play a significant role in warding off infectious diseases brought on by viruses such as the common cold and even herpes. The availability of zinc within the body has been reported to increase the number of healthy T cells and influence the activation of these infection-fighting cells against toxins produced by antigens.
Zinc is actually ubiquitous at the cellular, being present in many different biological functions, including the process called cell signaling. Cellular functions inside and outside of each cell stem from activities that are controlled by cell signaling Errors in cell signaling are believed to be responsible for autoimmunity and give rise to major diseases such as cancer. Cells in the immune system in particular make use of zinc in communicating with each other, avoiding errors and promoting proper functions.
Zinc Inhibits Replication of Viruses
In the latter of the 20th century there were researches that point to antiviral properties of zinc, and a number of related studies have surfaced since then. The common cold is induced by different types of viruses, but a significant fraction is caused by rhinoviruses. Studies in the past few years indicate that zinc compounds inhibit the proliferation of viruses, and the success of replication is directly proportional to the quantities of zinc carried by the cells used in the studies.
Today there are zinc lozenges specially formulated in treatment of the common cold. However, there hasn’t been a consensus in the scientific community in connection with the efficacy of zinc against viral replication. Anecdotal evidence has reported positive outcomes minus any known adverse effects with consumptions of over-the-counter zinc products specialized for use against the cold and flu.