• Zinc Deficiency: Out Of Mind, Metabolism and Moisture

    Posted February 17, 2018: by Bill Sardi

    The problems posed by zinc deficiency, and evidence of the health benefits proposed by zinc supplementation, continue to mount.

    The Recommended Daily Allowance as adhered to by most multivitamins is inadequate to meet the desperate need for zinc by the human body, particularly during early developmental periods of childhood and late stages of life when a shortage of zinc induces shrinkage of the thymus gland and impairment of the immune system.

    Zinc deficiency wasn’t known till the 1960s and only thereafter did it become evident that a shortage of zinc impairs the human immune system.  Overlooked is the importance of zinc in acting a mimic of insulin and in maintaining mental acuity.

    A shortage of zinc with advancing age leads to chronic low-grade inflammation throughout all the organs of the body, described as “inflammaging.”


    The thymus gland converts B cells produced in the bone marrow to T-cells.  T-cells comprise memory immunity, that is, where T-cells develop antibodies and immunity from prior exposure to pathogenic bacteria, viruses and tumor cells.  Vaccination requires T-memory cells.  A pool of naïve T-cells (T-cells that have not yet produced antibodies against any pathogens) are required to address new biological threats.  A lack of zinc impairs the pool of naïve T-cells.  Zinc supplementation normalizes thymus gland size and function even in subjects of advanced age.

    The problem of zinc deficiency doesn’t stop with a decline in pool of naïve T-cells.

    Without adequate zinc, the thymus gland releases harmful reactive T-cells, which generally results in autoimmune problems.

    Most aged individuals exhibit low-grade sustained inflammation, a chronic condition known as “inflammaging” which results in a poor prognosis for every age-related disease.  Zinc supplementation abolishes these problems.  Zinc supplementation enhances what are known as non-reactive T-cells that calm inflammation.

    Zinc is considered the “gatekeeper of the human immune system,” but it is overlooked by modern medicine as doctors continue to treat all of the various symptoms of zinc deficiency with problematic drugs.

    Zinc deficiency induces mental (thinking) impairment in both growing children and aging adults.  As laboratory mice age then accumulate iron and experience a decline in zinc levels in brain tissue.  Zinc supplementation enhances mental performance and is therefore “a plausible therapeutic intervention” to address mental impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease.  Zinc supplementation does this by reversal of elevated copper levels.


    There is a relationship between low blood levels of zinc and mental depression.  In fact, clinical zinc deficiency is common among patients seen by psychiatrists.  Zinc supplementation should be considered as first line treatment to eliminate zinc deficiency as a cause of mood problems before anti-depressants are prescribed.

    Zinc supplementation (30 milligrams/day) improves recovery from strokes and other brain injuries and has a positive effect on memory in adults and in allaying hyperactivity in children.  Vitamin C (130-500 milligrams per day) works synergistically with zinc in this regard.


    Another common problem of aging is varicose veins, exacerbated by life-long stationary standing (teachers, cash-register clerks, etc.) combined with elevated estrogen levels that weaken check valves in leg veins and produce pooling of deoxygenated blood.  Varicose veins sufferers also typically experience leg itching for unknown reasons.  Now researchers have found that leg itching is induced by a reduction in skin moisture in the legs induced by a shortage of zinc.  A shortage of zinc induces dry skin (who could imagine zinc being a skin moisturizer?).


    The evidence for zinc therapy in control of middle-age metabolic problems continues to grow but zinc supplementation has not come into common practice in the clinic.  While there is considerable attention given to controlling blood sugar levels in middle age and identifying patients with pre-diabetes, widespread shortages of zinc among individuals with insulin and blood sugar problems are not being addressed.

    In a study published in the Journal of Diabetes a group of 200 middle-age adults, low zinc levels were found in all subjects.  Far more individuals developed adult-onset (type 2) diabetes (25%) than those who were given 20 milligrams of zinc daily (11%).  The zinc-treated group also had lower cholesterol levels and beta cells in the pancreas of zinc-treated subjects produced more insulin.  Zinc supplementation reduced high blood sugar levels and overcame insulin resistance (inability of zinc to enter cells to produce cell energy).

    It is instructive to analyze what happened to 26,132 adults with no family history of heart or metabolic (diabetic) disease.  In a study documented in the journal Genes & Nutrition, over a period of 19 years 3676 cases of diabetes (14%) were diagnosed (mean age of diagnosis 69 years).  The median dietary zinc intake was 11.4 milligrams per day.  Zinc supplement users median zinc intake level was 22.4 milligrams per day (almost double).  With zinc supplementation the ratio of iron to zinc declined.  A 21% lower risk for diabetes was achieved with zinc supplementation.  Two other studies found a lower risk for diabetes when zinc levels were higher and iron blood levels were lower.

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