Zinc is classified as an essential nutrient, which means that your body cannot manufacture or store it. As a result, you must ensure a continuous supply of your food. Zinc is a mineral that serves numerous important roles in your body. Following iron, zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral within your body, and it is found in every cell. Zinc is required for a variety of metabolic activities in our body, including
- The expression of genes
- Enzymatic processes
- Immune system function
- Synthesis of proteins
- Synthesis of DNA
- Healing of wounds
- Development and growth
Zinc is also required for the sensations of taste and smell. The body requires zinc to grow and develop normally during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Zinc also improves insulin activity.
Zinc is also added to various nasal sprays, lozenges, and other natural cold remedies due to its role in immunological function.
Zinc is naturally present in a wide range of plant and animal foods. Breakfast cereals, snack foods, and baking flour are frequently fortified with synthesized versions of zinc because they do not naturally contain this nutrient. You can also take zinc pills or multivitamins that contain zinc.
It is estimated that over 2 billion people globally are zinc deficient due to low dietary consumption. Even though severe zinc deficiency is uncommon, it can develop in people with rare gene mutations, breastfeeding infants whose mothers are zinc deficient, people with alcoholic dependencies, and anyone consuming certain immune-suppressing medicines.
Milder forms of zinc deficiency are more prevalent, particularly among children in underdeveloped countries where diets are frequently deficient in essential elements. Diarrhea, reduced immunity, thinning of hair, loss of appetite, emotional problems, skin problems, fertility problems, and poor wound healing are all symptoms of mild zinc deficiency. Reduced growth and development, postponed sexual maturity, skin problems, persistent diarrhea, poor wound healing, and behavioral difficulties are all symptoms of severe zinc deficiency.
The following people are at risk of zinc deficiency:
- People suffering from gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Infants that are exclusively breastfed as they grow older.
- People who practice vegetarian or vegan diets.
- People suffering from sickle cell anemia.
- People suffering from chronic kidney disease.
- Undernourished people, including those suffering from anorexia.
- People who drink alcohol excessively.
Relation of zinc deficiency with cancer
The function of zinc in cancer is receiving greater attention. Human, animal, and cell culture research have all found a relationship between zinc deficiency and cancer. Although several dietary components have been claimed to assist in cancer prevention, there is considerable evidence that zinc may be especially important in host defense against cancer initiation and development. Zinc is recognized to be an essential component of zinc-finger DNA-binding proteins, copper/zinc superoxide dismutase, and other proteins involved in DNA repair. As a result, zinc is essential for transcription factor function, antioxidant defense, and DNA repair. Zinc deficiency in the diet can cause single- and double-strand DNA breaks, as well as oxidative DNA alterations that raise the risk of the development of cancer.
Zinc supplementation has mostly been researched as a component of a multivitamin for chemoprevention against a variety of cancer types. Zinc supplementation on its own has also been studied as a potential treatment for radiotherapy-induced adverse effects in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC). Several researchers looked at the use of zinc alone or in conjunction with vitamins and the results following cancer treatment, and they found that it improved survival in specific populations.
A lack of zinc in the diet may raise an individual’s risk of oxidative DNA damage in the prostate and prostate cancer. Furthermore, it appears that zinc is depleted during prostate cancer. As a result, zinc requirements in prostate cancer patients may be increased.
Zinc supplementation approaches may not only benefit cancer prevention but may also play a significant part in limiting its malignancy. As an antioxidant and a component of several DNA repair proteins, zinc plays a crucial function in safeguarding DNA from damage. Zinc is also unique as it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and proapoptotic properties. As a result, zinc supplementation can affect several stages of the carcinogenesis process.
Inadequate nutritional intake, such as poor zinc intake, may play a crucial role in shifting the balance toward a cancerous phenotype. If zinc is important for antioxidant defense and DNA integrity, it is expected that a lack of zinc will be especially damaging to these vulnerable individuals. It is now known that zinc status in cancer patients is lower than in healthy people. Zinc deficiency is a significant factor in the development and spread of cancer, and zinc may be useful in the prevention and treatment of numerous cancers, including colon, oesophageal, and head and neck cancers, and pancreatic cancer as well.
While there is concrete evidence that zinc deficiency can cause DNA damage, the hypothesis that zinc deficiency can directly enhance vulnerability to DNA damage as well as negatively change the host response to DNA-damaging agents has not been thoroughly investigated and requires more research.
Food sources of zinc
Many plant and animal foods are naturally high in zinc, making it simple for most individuals to get enough amounts. Zinc-rich foods include:
1.) Legumes: Zinc is abundant in legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans. In addition, 100 grams of cooked lentils provide about 12% of the daily value. Heating, sprouting, boiling, or fermenting plant sources of zinc, such as legumes, can improve its bioavailability. Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and other legumes are some examples.
2.) Nuts: Eating nuts like pine nuts, cashews, and almonds can help you get more zinc. Cashews are a good selection if you’re seeking a nut rich in zinc. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving provides 15% of the daily value.
3.) Seeds: Seeds are a nutritious addition to your diet that can help you get more zinc. Certain seeds, however, are preferable to others. 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds, for instance, contain 31% and 43% of the necessary daily consumption for men and women, respectively. Squash, pumpkin, and sesame seeds are among the other seeds high in zinc.
4.) Dairy products: Dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt, and milk, provide a variety of minerals, including zinc. Milk and cheese are two significant sources because they contain high levels of bioavailable zinc, which means that the majority of the zinc in these products is absorbed by your body. For instance, 100 grams of cheddar cheese contains approximately 28% of the daily value, whereas a single cup of full-fat milk contains approximately 9% of the daily value.
5.) Eggs: Eggs have considerable zinc content and can help you satisfy your daily zinc requirements. One large egg, for example, contains about 5% of the daily value.
6.) Shellfish: Shellfish are a good source of zinc that’s also low in calories. Oysters have the highest concentration, with 6 medium oysters giving 32 mg or 29 % of the daily value. To reduce the risk of food contamination, make sure shellfish are properly cooked before eating it. Some more examples are clams, mussels, lobster, and crab.
7.) Whole grains: Zinc is found in moderate amounts in whole grains such as wheat, quinoa, rice, and oats. They are significantly healthier for your health and are a great source of many other key nutrients such as fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, and many more.
8.) Certain vegetables: Generally, fruits and vegetables are low in zinc. Yet, some vegetables have moderate amounts and can help you meet your daily requirements, especially if you don’t consume meat. Potatoes, both ordinary and sweet, contain about 1 mg per large potato, which is about 9% of the daily value. Other vegetables, such as green beans and kale, contain about 3% of the daily value per 100 grams. Examples of some more vegetables which contain slight amounts of zinc are mushrooms, spinach, peas, asparagus, and beet greens.