Zinc is an essential trace mineral that has a number of important functions in the body and having low levels may have a significant impact on our health and well-being. Zinc is important for our growth and development, optimal immune function, wound healing, tissue repair and is also required for the senses of taste and smell.
Signs of low zinc?
Low zinc levels can present in a number of different ways including:
- Compromised immune system (prone to infection/flu)
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite/eating disorder
- White spots on nails
- Reduced fertility
- Skin Rashes
- Impact on cognition and motor function
The Food Teacher team recently attended an event near London and offered members of the public the opportunity to take part in a “Zinc taste test”. The taste test relies on receptors in the mouth to taste the supplement of zinc sulphate. Based on their reaction to the test, individuals were asked to describe their response as:
- Strong unpleasant taste noticed immediately – Positive
- Definite taste, which intensifies with time – Marginally positive
- Slightly dry, furry, mineral like or even sweet taste develops after a few seconds – Marginally low
- Tasteless like water – Low
Although this is not wholly scientific it is a useful tool for providing a gauge of individual zinc levels. Over 150 people took the test, and our results were interesting especially as zinc deficiency is considered very rare in developed countries.
Our results suggested that over 50% of people tested were possibly marginally low in zinc. Low levels of zinc may be associated with increased susceptibility to infection, poor wound healing, decreased sense of smell and taste, impact on learning and memories, low sperm count and skin disorders.
When discussing the results with the individuals, many people could identify possible causes such diets, which were low in sources of zinc or could attribute their level to their lifestyle.
Why low zinc?
Zinc deficiency may have become more common due to a number of reasons:
- Zinc can be removed/reduced in foods during processing/preservation
- Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in zinc
- Stress and alcohol can deplete levels of zinc
- Some medications and supplements (e.g. iron) can affect zinc levels
- Zinc is required in larger quantities at significant times in life, e.g. childhood, puberty, pregnancy and old age
- Research suggest our world’s soil is becoming more zinc deficient
Zinc rich foods
Whole foods are always the best place to start when boosting nutrient levels as they contain a mix of other nutrients, which work in synergy.
Some high zinc foods include:
- Beef /Lamb
- Wheat germ (toasted)
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts (cashews)
Stress has been identified as a possible cause of zinc depletion. To counter this, stress management techniques such as meditation/mindfulness, yoga, pilates and walking can be considered. Reducing or avoiding alcohol is another strategy, which may benefit your nutrient levels.
As minerals function in the body along with other nutrients focusing on a whole food diet will help to provide the combination required to maintain optimal health.
To find more out about your zinc status or for more specific health concerns consider a telephone, Skype or face-to-face appointment at The Food Teacher Clinic where a registered nutritional therapist can talk about your individual needs and support you through the development of a bespoke programme.