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Life with Zinc

A Feel 21, Inc. Health Report

In an old episode of The Simpsons, young Lisa Simpson's class watches a boring filmstrip called "Life Without Zinc" in which a skeptical teenager learns how the world would be different without the essential trace mineral.

Though the bit was funny, it was also accurate in stressing zinc's importance. According to the American Zinc Association, zinc is the third most used nonferrous (non-iron) metal, after aluminum and copper. It's used to protect cars from rusting and zinc can store six times as much energy per pound as other battery systems.

Zinc is not just beneficial for cars and architecture. It's a very important mineral for the human body. According to Phyllis and Jmes Balch in their seminal book, Prescription for Nutritional Healling, zinc is important for the following:

  • Prostate galnd funciton and the growth of reproductive organs.
  • Possibly preventing acne and regulating the healing of wounds.
  • Protein synthesis and collagen formation.
  • Maintaining the proper concentration of vitamin E in the blood; increasing the absorption of vitamin A.
  • Protecting the liver from the chemical damage, and preventing the formation of free radicals, which can damage cells.

According to Gary Null, Ph.D. in his 2003 book Gary Null's Power Aging, coping with arthritis can also be lumped in that category. "In one study, 220 mg of zinc sulfate was given three times a day for 12 weeks to rheumatoid arthritis patients," Null writes. "They reported feeling significant improvement in the areas of joint swelling, walking time, and morning stiffness."

Zinc can also be of help for the elderly populatin because, as Null notes, they may not have normal diets. "Zinc doses in the range of 40 to 90 mg a day help anorexic patients gain weight," he writes.

Test Your Knowledge of Zinc

  1. For optimum health, what's the proper balance that should be maintained between copper and zinc levels?
    a. 1:10
    b. 2:10
    c. 3:10
    d. 4:1
  2. Why should you not take zinc and iron supplements at the same time?
    a. Your stomach will explode
    b. They'll interfere with each other's activity.
    c. The combination will cause internal bleeding.
    d. It's a potentially fatal combination.
  3. Zinc is required for the metabolic activity of how many of the body's enzymes?
    a. 50 b. 100 c. 150 d. 200
  4. According to the American Zinc Association, what are the best sources of zinc?
    a. Fruits and vegetables
    b. Red meats and seafood
    c. White flour and sugar
    d. Cookies and candy. And lots of it.
  5. What drink can inhibit zinc absorption
    a. Chocolate Milk
    b. Cola
    c. Orange Juice
    d. Alcohol

Answers can be found at the end of this article.

If you're not getting enough zinc, the possible outcomes are not terribly enticing. A deficiency in zinc may result in the loss of taste and smell or could cause your fingernails to peel, and develop white spots. Other possible signs of zinc deficiency - according to Dr. and the late Mrs. Balch - could turn you into an ideal candidate for an extreme makeover.

  • Acne
  • Delayed sexual maturation
  • Fatigue
  • Growth impairment
  • Hair loss
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Impotence
  • Memory impairment

Since zinc can't be made in the body, it is available from a number of food sources, notably fish, meats, mushrooms, poultry, seafood, soybeans, and whole grains. Herbs that contain zinc include alfalfa, dandelion, milk thistle, rose hips, sage, nettle, cayenne.

A number of factors could lower your zinc levels - diarrhea, kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, diabetes, or fiber consumption. A lot of zinc is lost through perpiration. However Mrs. and Dr. Balch recommend taking no more than 100 mg of zinc daily. Anything over that can depress the immune system.


American Zinc Association,

Gary Null's Power Aging. By Gary Null. New American Library/Penguin. New York 2003.

The Prescriptio for Nutritional Healing (3rd edition). By Dr. James Balch and Phyllis Balch. Avery/Penguin. New York. 2000.

Answers: 1. a; 2. b; 3. d; 4. b; 5. e

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This article is reprinted with permission from Vitamin Retailer magazine and is provided for educational purposes only by your local retailer. No part of this article is intended as medical advice. Always consult your health care provider for any medical problems.

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