Zinc is one of the primary vitamins and minerals our bodies need. It is something we get from our food. Foods like dark, leafy greens, seeds, ginger, oats and buckwheat. Zinc is responsible for a myriad of things in our bodies, not the least of which is healthy DNA. Too little zinc can result in DNA damage. DNA damage means that your body will age faster, and begin developing issues with immunity. Even a minor deficiency in zinc can cause serious harm.
People at Risk
It’s estimated that some 12% of the population is deficient in zinc. 40% of those people are elderly. Simply from a diet that is lacking in zinc. Other people can be affected, particularly those who are:
- Frequent dieters,
- Those who consume high levels of alcohol (more than 5 drinks a week),
- Teens (during growth spurts or those who play sports),
- Pregnant (or women trying to become pregnant) or breastfeeding women,
- Men who have a history of prostate cancer,
- Those who are celiac and,
That’s a pretty long list. Men in particular seem to find it easier to lack zinc than women. It’s also noted that men with low levels of zinc are at significantly higher risk of prostate cancer than those who have reasonable amounts zinc. Possibly because zinc promotes recovery from free radical damage (free radicals are linked to an increase cancer risk in all people).
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Decreased Zinc Linked to Certain Cancers
For reasons that aren’t fully understood, the prostate contains one of the highest concentrations of zinc in the male body. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death of men in America (heart disease coming in at number one).
A cancerous prostate actually loses zinc, and many researchers have suggested that increasing zinc may not only work to prevent prostate cancer, but also has potential to be a therapeutic strategy in fighting already developed cancer.
Lack of zinc can also result in esophageal, breast, head and neck cancers in all people.
Getting Enough Zinc
Getting the right amount of zinc comes in the form of adding more meats into the diet, such as beef and poultry (go with grass-fed, easily sourced from a local farmer’s market or reputable butcher). It’s also available in shellfish; in fact, oysters have more zinc than either beef or poultry.
Zinc from plants can be very difficult for the human body to absorb and so requires far more servings of plants that contain zinc for the body to get what it needs. So vegans and vegetarians be aware that it may be best if you take a supplement.
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