When the average Nigerian hears the word ‘zinc’ the person’s mind immediately runs to the corrugated sheet of zinc still being used in roofing houses, by people unable to afford the modern aluminium roofing sheet. In the context of the human body and health, zinc is a mineral which the cells of the body need to fight off bacteria and viruses. The body also uses it to produce DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the genetic material that is vital for reproduction and which guides the body, to work the way it should. It helps wounds to heal, aids in the senses of smell and taste. Similarly, it is important for infants and children as they grow.
As noted earlier, it is a mineral which like other minerals, is required in very small amounts. An adult man needs just 11 milligrams a day while an adult woman needs 8 milligrams daily. However, if a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, she will need about 12 milligrams. Children need 2 to 11 milligrams depending on their age and gender.
Are you getting enough?
Probably, yes. But some things can make it hard for your body to use it, including surgery on your stomach or intestines, alcohol abuse, and digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Also who don’t eat meat or animal products can have a harder time getting enough zinc from food.
Danger of not getting enough
It can make children grow more slowly and delay puberty in teens. Adults who are low on zinc can have hair loss, diarrhea, sores on their eyes and skin, and loss of appetite. It also can affect a man’s sexual desire. In this day and age when it has become fashionable to take supplements, please you need to seek the advice of your doctor before you take zinc supplements. The reason is that zince deficiency can be caused by other health issues.
Helpful in preventing age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
This is an eye disease that causes vision loss over time. A large study of people at higher risk of getting AMD showed that taking a daily multivitamin with zinc, along with vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and copper, may help avoid it. But other studies haven’t had the same results. If you’re at higher risk, talk to your doctor to see if a vitamin would be a good idea for you.
What are the natural sources of zinc?
One of the best natural sources of zinc is oyster. Research has shown that a 3-ounce serving has 74 milligrams, which is five times more than you need per day. Another natural source of zinc is red meat, which but it can deliver some essential nutrients, including zinc. However, too much red meat, especially fatty meat has been linked to health problems. You need to eat small amounts and eat plenty of green vegetables on the side.
People who love to eat roasted chicken meat will get about 2.4 milligrams of zinc per 3-ounce serving, compared with less than 1 milligram in a skinless chicken breast. In the manner, eating cashew nuts as a snack is another sure means of getting zinc. The sweet thing is cashew nuts is readily available and be bought during traffic jam on major roads in major urban centres like Lagos, during morning or evening rush hours. Keep a bottle on you dinner table of office desk for a healthy treat instead of carbonated drinks or chips. But don over-eat. While they’re healthy, cashews are also full of calories and fat.
You can take zinc supplements
If you are not like to get zinc from diet, then you consider taking multivitamin supplements that contain zinc. However, moderation is of the essence. So follow the dosage on the label.
Warning on taking zinc
Taking too much of zinc can cause diarrhoea, stomach cramps, headache, and nausea. And if you take too much for too long, you may have lower levels of copper (another essential nutrient), a weaker immune system, and less HDL — or “good” cholesterol. You shouldn’t get more than 40 milligrams a day unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Talk to your paediatrician before giving a zinc supplement to your child.
Interactions with other medication
Zinc supplements can weaken the effects of antibiotics, and antibiotics can make it harder for your body to use zinc. The supplements also can make it harder for your body to absorb some drugs, like the arthritis drug penicillamine. Talk to your doctor before taking a zinc supplement.
•Adapted from webmd.com