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This ubiquitous mineral helps not only to maintain our immune system but also our bones, our skin, nails and our hair. It’s also vital for our cognitive function and protects our cells from oxidative stress. It even helps maintain healthy vision.1
So, as you can see, it’s pretty important. But you may be surprised to know that zinc was only discovered in humans as recently as 1961. This is interesting when you consider that, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry, zinc was identified as an element in 1746 and known to the Greeks and Romans before 20BC.
Zinc is found primarily in red meat and shellfish. Cheese, bread and wheat germ are also good sources2 as are mushrooms (especially Shiitake) and green peas. Other non-meat sources include spinach, lima beans, bean sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, okra and sweet corn.3 However, we should note here that zinc is not as bioavailable in plant foods as in animal products so those of us who don’t eat red meat or shellfish may need to take this into consideration.
This is important. As you may know, bioavailability refers to the rate at which a nutrient (or supplement) is absorbed by our bodies. Clearly, this is important as it influences how much we need to have an active effect. As many plant based foods and cereals contain high levels of phytate, a potential inhibitor of zinc absorption,4 those of us who don’t eat any or sufficient red meat or shellfish could potentially be deficient in this mineral. Zinc deficiency, relatively rare in the Western world but of concern in developing countries, is linked to growth failure5 or slow growth, weight loss and problems with wound healing.6
According to scientists, the four main intervention strategies for combating zinc deficiency include dietary modification or diversification, supplementation, fortification and bio-fortification.5 Bio-fortification, again as you probably know, is the process of enhancing a crop’s micronutrient content over and above that of the standard crop and can be achieved using different methods. And, as you’re also probably aware, this is an area of contention and so not one we will go into here (except to say Lifeplus does not use any genetically modified ingredients in any of its products).
So there you have it. Zinc is significantly important to us as humans for a number of reasons. And we need to be cognisant of it and our ability to get sufficient amounts through our diets to help avoid the potential dangers to our health outlined above. But, as also outlined above, this should be relatively easy to do through one of the four intervention strategies scientists have suggested. If you decide you’d like to use nutritional supplementation, please do look around our website. There’s lots of information to help you.
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