A new study by Penn State College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, found a connection between high zinc intake and the risk of heart disease. Zinc deficiency has been identified as one of the causes of cardiovascular disease and stroke. The study was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association. The study combined data from four separate studies and found that people who regularly consumed a lot of zinc had a 25 percent lower risk for heart disease. It is not known yet why zinc deficiency increases the risk for cardiovascular disease.
The data were collected over a seven-year period, using a mailed questionnaire. A total of 4,719 people took part in this study, and the participants were predominantly of white race. They were asked about their zinc intake on the forms provided, and information was periodically updated as they changed their diet and food consumption. The survey also included information on how often they had taken a multivitamin and mineral supplements during the previous year.
ROLE OF ZINC
Zinc is an essential nutrient and it plays an important role in many bodily functions. It is needed in the manufacture of hemoglobin and DNA, and it is involved in many biochemical reactions that are necessary for healthy bodily functions. It is also needed in the regulation of inflammatory responses, protein synthesis, and growth, as well as in the maintenance of normal cell metabolism.
Because of the widespread concern over health issues like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, it is encouraging to find that zinc deficiency does not seem to play a major role in these diseases. For many years, however, zinc deficiency was recognized as a very major cause of poor nutritional status in the U.S. Only now, with the help of improved laboratory methods, is it becoming possible to determine the true levels of zinc absorption and bioavailability in the typical American diet.
Many health professionals have concluded that a major cause of zinc deficiency symptoms is the absence of dietary zinc. The best dietary sources of zinc are nuts (such as almonds and pecans), seeds, legumes, and soybeans. The average dietary zinc requirements per day for healthy adults are in the range of twenty to thirty grams per day. Some researchers believe that insufficient zinc absorption is one of the most important causes of problems related to immune function, including allergies, asthma, eczema, and depression. Zinc may also be important in the treatment of HIV, which has been shown to improve after patients are given high doses of zinc.
HOW TO MEET ZINC DEFICIENCY
The best way to meet your daily zinc requirements is probably through eating more foods containing zinc. In particular, the most convenient method is probably to eat more vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables. Green leafy vegetables contain a good amount of zinc and so do a wide variety of whole grains, nuts, and other food groups that are rich in other nutrients as well as zinc. When shopping for vegetables or other foods that are rich in zinc, make sure that they are certified as “green” – that is, they have already been certified as healthy by one of the three major food producers. Even if you are not buying already certified green foods, consider making your own supplement, which is available at many health food stores.
One way to keep your body’s zinc levels where they should be is to avoid eating too much fat or saturated fat, which can increase your intake level. In addition, it is important to choose the meats that you eat carefully. Lean cuts of meat, chicken, fish, and turkey are generally good choices. When preparing these types of meats, be sure to remove the stomach fat and extra pieces of connective tissue that could make them less healthy for you than lean. A good rule of thumb for an intake level of poultry is about half of your daily beef intake level.
Although zinc supplements may provide some benefit, the benefits of zinc supplementation may be offset by other factors, such as a poor diet, a lack of exercise, and other conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and hypothyroidism. Some individuals may not have enough bioavailable zinc in their bodies, which can result from a number of factors, including: Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, malnutrition, or certain medications. If you think that you might be zinc deficient, you can get tested. If you do have low levels, it is important to eat more leafy vegetables, which are rich in zinc. This will help you get back to your normal zinc levels and improve your overall health.