Think Zinc! Part 1

“The elderly are the fastest growing population in the U.S. and are highly vulnerable to zinc deficiency. They don’t consume enough of this nutrient and don’t absorb it very well.”

Emily Ho, Oregon State University researcher, is a leading expert on zinc.

So says Dr. Emily Ho, Principal Invesitgator at Oregon State’s Linus Pauling Institute. That’s from Science Daily.

Just 50 years have passed since the need for zinc in the human diet was confirmed. Nobody knew!

And yet today two billion people in the developing world alone still suffer from zinc deficiency. That’s sad — and sad that we’re not much better off!

Certainly, the federal government thinks zinc is important for us:

Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Zinc also helps wounds heal and is important for proper senses of taste and smell.

So what are the total numbers of Americans likely suffering from low zinc? Younger Americans have a rate of at least 10 percent deficiency — with those older folks it’s a devastating 40 percent or more:

1. Older Americans (65-120) 40 million x 40% = 16 million

2. Other Americans (0-64)   275 million x 10% = 28 million

The total of zinc-deficient folks totals an alarming 44 million in the USA! And it may be higher . . .

The government sells zinc short in a sense by not emphasizing the stark consequences. If you lack zinc and are not making the genetic machinery (DNA) and products (proteins) because you lack a major raw material (zinc), your body is not working at its best! Health is internally crippled.

Obamacare does have a component of disease prevention, but zinc is nowhere included. Nutrients, of course, are great and inexpensive preventive strategies — that will remain by the wayside under Obama’s law.

Yet, there really is a zinc problem — that Dr. Ho has been following for years:

“Zinc deficiencies have been somewhat under the radar because we just don’t know that much about mechanisms that control its absorption, role, or even how to test for it in people with any accuracy.”

Today we do know how important zinc is compared to 1963. At the time, zinc was known to be important in making just three enzymes. Enzymes enable chemical processes to take place more quickly — without them, those processes would be so slow we’d die!

Without zinc, no enzymes. Without enzymes, no life. In fact, we now know there are over 300 enzymes whose existence is zinc-dependent.

The same kind of zinc dependency is true for transcription factors. These transcription factors control when genes are switched on or off. As the saying goes, timing is everything!

Without these specialized proteins, there would be utter chaos to the delicate fine tuning and coordination in the cells and in the body’s systems. With low levels of TFs, there is harmful chaos.

Convinced?

Leading health writer Bill Sardi explains the big picture on zinc at Knowledge of Health:

Americans obtain roughly 10 milligrams of zinc a day from food, but maybe, at best, 2-3 milligrams that is absorbed. The human body contains 2-3 grams (2,000-3,000 milligrams) of zinc. Much of it is found in the adrenals, brain, and eyes. Since the majority of zinc is stored inside cells and is not free in the blood, blood tests for zinc are notoriously inaccurate (most physicians are unaware of this).

Indeed, we just aren’t getting enough. Remember the higher concentrations in the brain mean that zinc is crucial to mental function — and there’s so much more.

So, you’ll want to read Think Zinc! Part 2 coming up on Wednesday. There’ll be more info about the specific benefits — and the type and quantity of zinc supplements to take.