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Most Common Deficiencies: Zinc

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A popular blood test in our office measures levels of vitamins, minerals,
and antioxidants. It seems reasonable that as long as you’re spending good
money on nutritional supplements, you might as well see if they’re being
absorbed. It’s also helpful that some health insurance companies (notably,
Blue Cross) are covering the test.

Interestingly, the three most common deficiencies appearing in our patients
are vitamin D, vitamin E, and zinc. The first is no surprise at all.
Chicago is a dim and cloudy city once summer ends, and sunshine is needed
for your skin to manufacture vitamin D. I’ve written a lot about the
importance of vitamin D in previous health tips, and urge all women to take
1000-2000 IU (international units) daily. A recent article on vitamin D
linked low levels to an increased susceptibility to cancer of the pancreas.
Yikes.

I’ll write about vitamin E another time, but since the cold and flu season
are upon us, this seems like a good time to discuss zinc.

Zinc is a mineral vital to the healthy functioning of more than 300 enzymes
and hormones in the human body. One of the most significant of these is
superoxide dismutase (SOD), among the most potent of antioxidants. Low
levels of SOD have been linked to reduced lifespan in lab animals and
susceptibility to degenerative conditions like ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease)
and Parkinson’s.

But equally important, zinc is vital to the healthy function of our immune
systems. This has been known for years, and you’ve probably seen cold
capsules and throat lozenges with added zinc. No shortage of clinical
trials has proven that if you take zinc at the first sign of a cold, the
duration of your infection will be shortened significantly.

Zinc is also involved with normal cell function and growth. Most
infertility centers, when they see a man with a low sperm count, will
quickly check his zinc level and start him on zinc supplementation to ramp
up his numbers.

There are several definitely annoying aspects of zinc deficiency:
• People who are wisely cutting back on their red meat consumption
aren’t thrilled to learn the best source of zinc is beef.
• The cereals, nuts, and legumes that represent a big part of a
healthful diet actually block your intestine’s ability to absorb zinc.
• Because of the steady depletion of good minerals from our farmland,
the amount of zinc in green vegetables has dropped during the past fifty
years.

With this information, do I recommend you add yet another supplement to
your daily regimen? Not really.

Keep a bottle of zinc lozenges to use at the first sign of a cold, but stop
once your cold is history. For everyday zinc coverage, make sure your high
potency multivitamin/mineral supplement has at least 12.5 mg of zinc to
keep you from developing any deficiency. This multiple in our apothecary
will keep you covered.

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