Tag Archives: nutrition

Know the Common Signs of Zinc Deficiency by Benita Lee

What is Zinc?

zincZinc is an essential trace mineral that is intricately involved in hundreds of activities inside our cells. At the moment, research estimates that 100 to 300 different enzymes require zinc to accomplish their tasks. In many cases, zinc acts as a catalytic component for those enzymes, aiding the biochemical processes that help cells function regularly. Enzymes, and even hormones, hormone receptors, and other proteins, also need zinc as a building block in their own chemical structures.

Zinc helps enzymes and other molecules carry out cellular processes like DNA synthesis, cell division, gene expression, cell death, and cell metabolism, making it vital to our normal growth and development and overall health. Not only does zinc help grow our bodies; it also helps protect it by supporting our immune cells, augmenting antioxidant activity, and facilitating healing of open wounds. In recent years, research has also found possible associations between zinc and normal learning and emotional functioning in our brains.

What are Signs of Zinc Deficiency?

Zinc’s specific roles in healthy bodies explain many of the symptoms that arise when zinc is deficient.

Stunted Development

A major result of zinc deficiency is slowed growth. Some signs are a loss of appetite and/or weight loss. Without zinc to support DNA synthesis and cell division, there is, in some sense, a lacking ability to sustain the cellular processes that ultimately lead to a growing body. Zinc deficiency is even felt in the brain, altering central nervous system development and less-tangible traits like behavior. Overall mental slowness can result. Also related to development – a severe absence of zinc for normal sex hormone production can lead to delayed sexual maturity in both males and females, seen as delayed menstruation in females and a lack of reproductive organ development and low sperm count in males.

Impaired Immune Function

In research on children from developing countries, a strong association is found between low zinc status and increased susceptibility to pneumonia and infections that cause diarrhea. One theory for this link is that, like most cells, immune cells need zinc to undergo cell division and propagate. Zinc deficiency may result in a smaller pool of first-line-of-defense immune cells that can attack infectious viruses and bacteria. Secondly, research has found zinc deficiency decreases the activity of macrophages, a specific subset of immune cells that activates other immune cells and can engulf and dispose of cellular waste, bacteria, or like in the picture below, even cancer cells.

Delayed Wound Healing

Zinc is involved in numerous processes that enhance skin cell migration and the removal of old skin cells during wound repair. It also has some antioxidant activity when combined with the enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD), which can help fight against bacterial toxins and prevent tissue damage from inflammation. In individuals with low zinc levels, wounds take longer to heal and the risk for tissue cell death is increased.

Effects on Prostate, Eyes, Taste, and Smell

Some researchers caution that zinc deficiency can initiate prostate enlargement or even prostate cancer because zinc is unavailable for normal DNA synthesis and cell division. In eyes, zinc plays a very important role in delivering vitamin A from the liver to the retina so that melanin, a protective pigment, can be produced. Without adequate zinc, the risk for poor night vision and cataracts can increase. Even an enzyme involved in our ability to taste and smell relies on zinc to be active. A loss of smell is a common first sign of chronic zinc deficiency.

High-Risk Groups

With all the research surrounding zinc deficiencies, studies have also shown that symptoms can be corrected in part by zinc supplementation. Some reasons for zinc deficiencies in the US are not so obvious, and even though you might consider your diet to be well-balanced, you could still be at risk for consuming too little zinc. Here are some groups who are at higher risk:

  • Vegetarians
    • Stock VegetablesEven though zinc is present in non-meat sources like beans, grains, and seeds, zinc concentrations are comparatively lower than in meats. In addition, phytates – present in whole-grain breads, cereals, and legumes – bind zinc and inhibit its intestinal absorption. Soaking beans, grains, and seeds in water for several hours before cooking may make their zinc more available. Research also shows that leavening seems to break down phytates, so leavened grain products like bread may be a better zinc source than unleavened products like crackers.
  • Older Adults
    • As we age, our diets tend to become less diverse, which limits a portion of the nutrients we take in. Meat, with its more bioavailable zinc, is frequently left out of meals. A national health study found that 35-45% of adults aged 60 years or older do not consume enough zinc in their diets. 25% of the subjects were still zinc deficient even after zinc supplements were taken into account.
  • Pregnant Women
    • Because fetuses require high levels of zinc for rapid growth and development, pregnant women may be more susceptible to zinc deficiency. Also, prenatal vitamins tend to include iron and folate in their formulations, which can significantly decrease the bioavailability of zinc. Zinc deficiency in pregnant women increases the risks for maternal morbidity, preterm delivery, and babies who are smaller than normal for their gestational age.
  • Exclusively breastfed infants
    • Breastfeeding tends to decrease zinc stores for mothers, but also, the zinc levels in breast milk are not high enough for infants past a certain age. Breast milk provides about 2 mg of zinc per day, enough for babies only in the first 4-6 months of life. Once the baby reaches 7-12 months, they will require 3 mg of zinc per day, at which time, age-appropriate foods and/or formulas are recommended.

How Much Zinc Do You Need?

Human zinc stores need to be partially replenished daily. These are Institute of Medicine’s established Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) per day for the average healthy individual:

  • 0-6 months: 2 mg
  • 7-12 months & 1-3 years: 3 mg
  • 4-8 years: 5 mg
  • 9-13 years: 8 mg
  • 14-18 years: 11 mg (males), 9 mg (females), 12 mg (pregnancy), 13 mg (lactation)
  • 19+ years: 11 mg (males), 8 mg (females), 11 mg (pregnancy), 12 mg (lactation)

Zinc Food Sources

oystersAccording to USDA National Nutrient Database listing zinc content for specific foods, oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. However, red meat and poultry are also great sources and provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. If you’re looking for non-meat foods that are high in zinc, beans, nuts, seeds, whole grains and oats, and fortified cereals are some good options. As mentioned previously, though, these sources have slightly limited zinc bioavailability compared to meats. For some unconventional natural sources of zinc, you can also try crab, wild rice, and soybeans. The USDA’s comprehensive list of zinc food sources is available here.

Learn more about content author, Benita Lee Content provided by Labdoor Magazine, Labdoor.com


Ask the Anytime People; Expert answers to your health and wellness questions

Grant and Cathy Pritchard

Grant and Cathy Pritchard

Ask the Anytime People – Expert answers to your health and wellness questions

By Grant & Cathy Pritchard

Question: I love fast food, but I am trying to lose weight and improve my health. Is it okay to eat fast foods while on a diet program?

Answer: Yes, but as always, there are a few important points to keep in mind. We all know fast food isn’t necessarily the healthiest meal in town, but we also know that setting realistic goals is an important component of any successful weight loss program. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to completely deprive yourself of fast food, especially if it’s appropriate for your specific situation. In other words, if you’re crunched for time, fast food may be the only reasonable option. That said, if an occasional trip turns into four or five weekly trips, your weight loss efforts and health goals will likely suffer as a result. The key is to become a savvy shopper and watch out for calorie-laden foods with added sugars, sodium, and fat. Look for a Nutrition Facts pamphlet in local restaurants and educate yourself on their menus. If you make the effort, you’ll be able to find a sensible meal no matter where you go. Remember, balance, variety, and moderation are the words to live by when it comes to food. If you apply these principles regularly, you won’t have to sacrifice your health and wellness goals when eating out.

Question: I’ve heard some people say dieting just doesn’t work, and that you should focus on exercise if you want to lose weight. Is this true?

fruitAnswer: No, this is simply not true. If you’ve ever looked at food labels and compared them to the calorie counters on your exercise equipment, you’ll likely come to some startling conclusions. It is much easier to decrease your calorie intake by 300-500 calories per day than it is to expend that many more calories each day through exercise. Researchers have addressed this issue as well, and it is generally accepted that diet is the more important variable when it comes to weight loss. Exercise is still beneficial however, and actually plays a much more prominent role in weight maintenance. Here’s the bottom line… incorporate both healthy eating and exercise no matter where you are in the weight loss process.

Question: My wife thinks she’ll get big and bulky if she starts lifting weights with me. How do I convince her otherwise?

anytime-fitness-logoAnswer: This comes up all the time, and it’s one of the biggest myths out there. First of all, women simply don’t have the proper hormonal balance to put on large amounts of muscle tissue. Secondly, even if they did have the right physiology, it would take some serious training to do it. Getting bigger muscles requires high-volume workouts (lots of sets and repetitions) and a pretty high intensity level as well. Picking up a few weights here and there isn’t a recipe for building mass—it’s what you do and how you do it that really makes the difference. Remind your wife that weight training programs can always be tailored to specific goals, so if she doesn’t want to put on large amounts of muscle, that’s just fine. Generally speaking, a full-body circuit with higher repetition ranges a few days per week would work well if she’s just looking to tone up or maintain her current level of muscle tissue. If she wants to get an individualized program based on her goals, look for a qualified personal trainer in your area.

Exercise is still beneficial however, and actually plays a much more prominent role in weight maintenance. Here’s the bottom line… incorporate both healthy eating and exercise no matter where you are in the weight loss process.

About the authors: Grant & Cathy Pritchard are the club owners at Anytime Fitness in Buckley & Orting To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at grantp@anytimefitness.com


Expert Answers to Your Health Wellness Questions; Ask the Anytime People

Authors:  Grant & Cathy Pritchard

Expert answers to your health and wellness questions

Question: Does cooking food in a microwave cause nutrient loss?

microwaveAnswer: This is a great question because microwaves are pervasive throughout society. In fact, they’re a staple in almost every kitchen. Despite their popularity, many people are convinced that radiation from microwaves destroys nutrients. Thankfully, research does not back this up. The primary determinants of nutrient loss are cook time, cook temperature, and the amount of liquid used. In other words, any form of cooking can lead to nutrient loss, but microwaving is actually a BETTER option. Microwaves do a great job of heating your food very quickly, and microwaves heat at temperatures that are lower than most other forms of cooking. The water-soluble vitamins, B-complex and C, are easily the most susceptible to heat, and are commonly found in beans, fruits, and vegetables. Bottom line—use the microwave as often as you need to, but try to avoid using water in the cooking process to avoid leaching of those water-soluble vitamins.

Question: I’ve never been the best sleeper. Is this having a negative impact on my overall health?

sleepAnswer: Unfortunately, yes, it probably is! There is a lot of emerging research revolving around sleep (or the lack thereof) and its associated health implications. There’s some data now indicating that those who get just one night of poor sleep end up with abnormal lab values indicative of pre-diabetes. That’s right, pre-diabetes!! Folks with poor sleep cycles can end up with suppressed insulin secretion after a meal, which leaves them with elevated blood sugar levels for far too long. They also have lowered resting metabolic rates, which could ultimately contribute to weight gain as well. Other researchers have discovered that hundreds of genes get disrupted after just one week of suboptimal sleep, thereby impairing the body’s ability to heal itself. Chronic sleep problems have been associated with heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and obesity for years, but now we’re starting to see direct observations in the laboratory setting. In the end, optimal sleep is just as important as your fitness level and your nutritional status when it comes to overall health, so try to get at least 8 hours a night, and more when you can.

Question: I lift 5 days per week consistently, but my strength gains have flat-lined. How do I continue to get stronger?

anytime-fitness-logoAnswer:  Despite not having much information to go on here, let’s see if I can provide some insight. First of all, there’s the distinct possibility that you’re working out too much. Maybe your volume (the combination of sets and reps) is too high—a common problem for those looking to gain strength as quickly as possible. And how long has it been since you’ve taken some time off to allow your body to fully recuperate from the stress of exercise? Some much-needed rest may do the trick, and amazingly, people often come back even stronger. I also wonder if you’re changing up your workouts enough. Many people get into the habit of using machines or free weights, but then never gravitate toward other forms of exercise. Cables, tubing, bands, kettle bells, medicine balls, and even bodyweight exercises can all increase strength, so you should try to vary up your routine regularly. Lastly, you have to remember that strength doesn’t just increase exponentially on a continual basis. There is a threshold that you’ll reach at some point, and you could be there already. If you feel like you need help with your current program, talk to a certified personal trainer.

About the author: Grant & Cathy Pritchard are the club owners at Anytime Fitness in Buckley & Orting. To submit a question for future articles, please contact the author at grantp@anytimefitness.com.

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