Unknowingly to many of us zinc is an important mineral in the body. A recent study has found out that zinc can inhibit the key enzyme implicated in triggering apoptosis or cell death.
What is Zinc?
Zinc is a dietary mineral which is important in our daily metabolism. This mineral is often used as a cofactor by a number of important enzymes. There are about 300 zinc-dependent enzymes in the body. When deficient, zinc can have various health implications. It can bring about various benefits in immunity, skin health, reproduction and vision.
The ability to get zinc in our diets to fill our important needs in the body is a challenging one. It is said that there is no such food that can serve as an excellent source of this mineral. Your body needs about 11 milligrams of zinc everyday and it can be obtained from various food sources. Zinc is often paired with copper for transport and metabolism.
Zinc plays various roles in our health. First of all, this mineral boosts immune function. A diet low in zinc can bring about reduction of optimal immune support in times of stress or illnesses. These reductions in immune function may revert back quickly when zinc is restored into normal levels in the body. People who are prone to have reduced immunity caused by zinc deficiency are those who are older.
Zinc also has beneficial effects on skin health. Researchers say that it can reduce acne symptoms in young people. They noted that there was deterioration of skin health within 12 days of consuming a low zinc diet every day. Zinc deficiency can bring about skin problems such as fungal infections, skin rashes, and canker sores. Thus for healthy skin, one must consume adequate levels of zinc-rich foods every day.
Zinc also supports sensory organ functions. It is said that low zinc levels can bring about loss in taste sensations and loss of appetite. The deterioration in sensory organ functioning is more severe than the immune system changes that have been reported previously. This can bring about weight loss and deterioration of immunity in people. Zinc can also boost good vision. It often works with vitamin A to send nervous impulses to the brain. Vision loss results from declining zinc levels in the retina, the part of the eye involved in light perception.
Zinc can also have beneficial effects on male reproductive health. Zinc deficiency can impair sperm motility and can decrease sperm counts. Sperm quality and quantity is often affected, even with brief periods of zinc deficiency. There is also reduced fertility in women who have zinc deficiency.
In short, adequate levels of zinc can prevent illnesses such as common colds, acne, Down syndrome, canker sores, liver disease, ulcers, diabetes, depression, macular degeneration and infertility.
So, where can we obtain zinc? Oysters are rich in zinc and will produce about 8-9 milligrams of zinc per ounce. Other shellfish are also rich in zinc as well as animal-derived foods. Red meat and poultry can contribute zinc to the diet. Zinc is present in dairy, gras-fed beef, scallops, grass-fed lambs, whole grains, nuts, seeds. Good sources of zinc may also include foods such as Shiitake mushrooms, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.
Zinc and Cell Death
A recent study shows how zinc an essential trace element of human metabolism, interacts with the enzyme caspase-3, which is central to apoptosis or cell death. The findings of this study are published in the journal Angewandte Chemie’s International Edition. In this study, researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University were able to show how zinc inhibits the activity of caspases which are important drug targets for the treatment of cancer and neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s disease. This finding may help other researchers design therapeutic agents that target zinc-caspase interaction to specifically control the activity of caspases, and hence, apoptosis.
You can read more about zinc and other minerals when you browse our other articles on this site.