Can zinc deficiency cause depression?
The health benefits of zinc include a proper functioning of the immune and digestive systems, controlled diabetes, reduction in stress levels, improved metabolism, and an increased rate of healing for acne and wounds. Also, it is helpful in terms of pregnancy, hair care, eczema, weight loss, night blindness, cold, eye care, appetite loss, and many other conditions.
What is the importance of zinc?
Zinc plays a vital role in protein synthesis and helps regulate the cell production in the immune system of the human body. It is mostly found in the strongest muscles of the body and is found in especially high concentrations in the white and red blood cells, retina, skin, liver, kidneys, bones, and pancreas. The semen and the prostate gland in men also contain significant amounts of zinc.
In the human body, there are more than 300 different enzymes that require zinc to function normally. Researchers believe that 3,000 proteins (out of approximately 100,000) have this vital mineral.
A normal person has two to three grams of zinc at any given time. There are organs in the human body which secrete it, such as the salivary gland, the prostate gland, and the pancreas. Even cells involved in the activity of the immune system secrete zinc. It is used up in various metabolic processes and eliminated through normal excretory and urinary channels, so it needs to be replenished often. If it isn’t, you will begin to suffer from deficiency symptoms.
Health benefits of zinc
Skin careStudies have shown zinc to be an effective home remedy for curing pimples. Zinc is also important for eliminating acne from the skin. It regulates and controls the amount of testosterone in the body, which plays a dominant role in causing acne. In addition to that, zinc is also involved in collagen synthesis. This further aids in normalizing the presence of oil under the skin and improves the maintenance of healthy skin. The open sores that come with acne are practically magnets for bacterial and viral infections and this mineral can stimulate the white blood cell count and reduce the chances of any type of infection.
White blood cells are integral to the healing process and can defend the body against a number of infections, including those that commonly attack canker sores, ulcers, burns, surgical incisions, and other wounds. Zinc is also required for the production of collagen, a connective tissue that is required for skin repair and regrowth. Acne can leave permanent scars on the skin and zinc can help reduce the evidence of those scars.
Treats eczemaAlso called “atopic dermatitis”, eczema is an inflammatory and chronic disorder of the skin and is mainly caused by a deficiency of zinc in the body. It plays an important role in healing chronic infections and assists the body in restoring its ability to heal properly and completely. This irritation can be cleared up by re-balancing the zinc content in your blood.
Prevents prostate disorderZinc is very important in dealing with prostate disorders. Zinc deficiency causes enlargement of the prostate gland and makes it vulnerable to cancer. It is advisable to take 15mg of zinc every day, under close medical observation, when suffering from a prostate disorder. Studies have shown a reduction in tumor growth in the prostate when normal levels of this mineral are present in the system.
Improves cognitive functionZinc has a strong impact on mental function because it can pair up with vitamin B6 to ensure the proper function of neurotransmitters that communicate within the body. Zinc is found in high concentrations in the hippocampus, which controls thought and memory. For those who have suffered an injury, zinc keeps brain function strong, as it is naturally diverted to the other parts of the body for healing purposes.
Prevents depressionZinc deficiency may be a factor underlying depression in some cases—and zinc supplements can be an effective treatment for people whose levels are low.
Depressed people tend to have less zinc in their blood than most people do on average, and the deficiency is greater among those with more severe depression. In the brain, zinc is concentrated in glutamatergic neurons, which increase brain activity. Those neurons feed into the mood and cognition circuitry.
The odds of developing depression among people with the highest zinc intake was up to 50 percent lower than those with the lowest intake.
For those with depression who are also at high risk for zinc deficiency (see list below), zinc may be just what the doctor ordered.
Improves senses of taste & smellZinc has unique benefits, which include the improvement of the senses of taste and smell. Taste buds and olfactory cells are zinc-reliant, and it is necessary for the proper development and growth of those specific cells. Studies have shown that raising zinc levels can improve these two senses and help them function at optimal levels.
Treats coldZinc supplements help in decreasing the severity and duration of cold and other mild illnesses. This mineral reduces the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which aggravate the body during cold or other infections. Also, its ability to stimulate white blood cell activity makes it ideal for reducing colds and infections. It helps in protecting against infectious disorders and fungal infections, which include pneumonia and conjunctivitis.
Weight lossZinc plays a leading role in weight loss for obese individuals. A number of studies have connected it with a decrease in appetite, which prevents overeating. This is related to zinc’s manipulation of the ghrelin hormone, which tells the body when it wants to eat.
Boosts reproductive healthZinc is essential for the repair and functioning of DNA. It is essential for rapid growth of cells and for the building of major constituents of the cell over the course of a pregnancy. The enormous development and enzymatic activity that takes place during pregnancy make it one of the most important nutrients for infants and mothers.
In males, zinc assists in spermatogenesis and the development of the sex organs, while in females, zinc aids in all the reproductive phases, including the parturition and lactation stages. When it comes to sperm, zinc plays a major role in a number of ways. First of all, it acts as a sort of sedative for the sperm so that they don’t expend unnecessary energy. It also protects the reproductive DNA inside the sperm from breaking down, so a correct transfer of information is guaranteed. Once the sperm enters the female reproductive tract, it quickly dissipates and has a sudden burst of energy, which propels it up in the tube. Finally, it is an essential part of the enzymes that allow sperm to penetrate into the egg.
Stimulates protein synthesisZinc acts as an antioxidant and is involved in some of the biochemically decisive reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, enzymatic function, and carbohydrate metabolism. Since this mineral is involved in so many integral systems and functions of the body, this cannot be stressed enough – You must include it in your diet!
Regulates cell growthZinc is an essential component in a number of enzymes that help in regulating cell growth, protein synthesis, hormonal levels, DNA, gene transcription, energy metabolism, and other related functions.
Prevents cancerIn males, zinc plays a vital role in the prostate gland and prevents premature damage or strain, which can lead to problems like cancer. The natural antioxidant properties of this mineral mean that it actively seeks out free radicals, the hazardous by-products of cell metabolism that can cause a number of diseases. Free radicals can morph normal cells into cancerous cells by breaking down their DNA integrity so the elimination of free radicals by antioxidants is one of the most vital lines of defense against many kinds of cancer.
Relieves chronic fatiguePeople suffering from chronic fatigue are usually told to consume fish oil, as it is rich in this mineral. Many doctors suggest no other medications for curing chronic fatigue except fish oil. Zinc must be doing something right! It is integral for normal muscle function, and researchers believe that muscle fatigue is one of the major causes of chronic fatigue. Therefore, zinc is the ideal supplement to boost your energy levels.
Treats alopeciaAlopecia causes loss of hair in both children and adults. Doctors often tell people suffering from this condition to boost their intake of zinc in their diet. Since it is beneficial for strong hair, the symptoms of alopecia can sometimes be diminished. Studies have shown that it is more effective in treating alopecia in children than that of adults.
Controls bone LossThis is a condition when the bones become weak and fragile. This mineral is a component of hydroxyapatite, which is a salt that makes the bone matrix strong and hard. For this reason, zinc should be added to your dietary plan to avoid bone loss, particularly as you get older or if you show any signs of premature aging or osteoporosis.
Treats night blindnessConsuming about 150-450 mg zinc will help to improve your vision. Therefore, it is always recommended to consume food like beef, lamb, oysters, buckwheat, and crabs, as they are hoarded with this mineral and will improve your ability to see. It is particularly helpful for those suffering from night blindness. Vitamin A, which is an essential part of improving night vision, stimulates certain enzymes that cannot function without zinc, therefore making it a necessary element in reducing night blindness.
What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency?
As with other mineral deficiencies, symptoms of lack of zinc can range from mild to severe depending on, for example, how low zinc levels are in the body and how long the person has been low in zinc.
Signs of zinc deficiency include:
- retarded bone growth
- loss of smell and taste senses
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- low blood pressure
- hair loss
- frequent infections
- slow wound healing
- skin problems such as pimples, acne, greasy skin, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis and rough and pale skin in general
- white spots under fingernails
- night blindness
- eye lesions
- poor dream recall
- lack of menstrual period
- impotence / low fertility
- delayed sexual maturation
Who is at risk of zinc deficiency?
People most at risk of being low in zinc are those who:
- don’t get enough zinc through their diet, such as those on a restricted diet
- drink a lot of alcohol
- have diabetes
- are pregnant or lactating
- are senior citizens
- are vegetarian
- have a malabsorption syndrome, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
- have chronic infections
- have anorexia
- have hookworm
- have cirrhosis
- have chronic renal disease
- have severe trauma
- have sickle cell disease
- have acrodermatitis enteropathica (a metabolic disorder affecting the uptake of zinc)
Important sources of zinc
The most important food source of zinc is meat, and other products like oysters, turnips, peas, oats, peanuts, almonds, whole wheat grain, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, and pecan nuts have smaller, but still worthwhile amounts of this beneficial mineral.