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Zinc 26 August 2009

Zinc is crucial for:

  • Proper development of all our five senses. Lack of smell or taste can be caused by zinc deficiency.
  • Skin health.
  • Prostate health – it decreases aromatase activity. Aromatase is the enzyme which converts testosterone to oestrogen. Zinc deficiency therefore results in excessive conversion of testosterone to oestrogen. This causes low testosterone and high oestrogen levels. Excessive oestrogen levels in men are increasingly being implicated in prostate disorders and also result in a reduced libido in men.
  • Libido. Zinc deficiency can cause birth defects. This may explain the low libido which often accompanies zinc deficiency — the body is actually trying to prevent conception.
  • Healing of wounds.
  • Fighting infection.
  • Detoxification of cadmium.
  • Protection against cancer.

Vegetarian diets are generally lower in zinc and foods such as grains and soy contain phytates which can decrease zinc absorption. White flecks in the fingernails are characteristic of zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency causes a weakness of the nail bed to the nail which manifests itself as white nail spots. Zinc is also responsible for the conversion of caretenoids to vitamin A. Zinc deficiency can therefore cause yellow discolouration of the skin (particularly) the palms.

The majority of zinc is stored intracellularly and is not free in the blood. Blood tests of zinc are therefore not accurate. A red cell zinc (checking zinc levels within the bloods red cells), hair mineral analysis or a properly performed zinc taste test are more accurate assessments. The zinc taste test is very accurate and takes into account individual biochemical requirements (determined by genetics and life factors). If there is an immediate strong taste, zinc levels are normal. If there is a delayed taste or it tastes like water then zinc deficiency is present. Zinc should be supplemented at 20mg/day and the test repeated in a week. If there is still no taste, zinc supplementation should be doubled to 40mg/day. The test should again be done in another week and if there is still no taste, the dose of zinc should be increased to 60mg/day.

Long term zinc supplementation should also include a small amount of copper (1mg of copper for every 15mg of zinc) otherwise palpitations and a rise in cholesterol can occur due to copper deficiency.

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