Zinc: An All-Purpose Mineral

It seems that every fews years or so, there is a new study touting the common cold-fighting qualities of zinc. The latest, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, shows pretty definitively how zinc acetate lozenges may reduce the duration of the common cold by nearly 3 days.

But zinc is more than just a cold medicine. It is a trace mineral vital to the proper function of our immune system. As such, it's key to coordination of our body's attacks against infected or cancerous cells. The downside there is that a deficiency in zinc can severely impair our immune responses. Zinc is also a very necessary factor in a child's proper growth.

It may come as a surprise that zinc is one of the most effective treatments for diarrhea. It may be even more of a surprise to learn that diarrhea kills about 1.9 million children under the age of 5 every year.

As a topical application, zinc expedites the healing of wounds. Because of the role it plays in maintaining skin integrity and structure, a zinc deficiency may result in chronic wounds or ulcers.

Researchers at Oregon State University learned that raising zinc levels through diet and supplementation may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases. They were able to show that age-related reductions in zinc status may lead to impaired immune system function and systemic inflammation.

Zinc keeps your eyes healthy, too. It prevents cellular damage in the retina, which helps in delaying the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Several studies have tied zinc to male fertility, indicating that low zinc levels equated to lower sperm quality. The problem is easily rectified with zinc sulfate and folic acid supplementation.

Is it possible that zinc can make you smarter? Research conducted at the University of Toronto indicates that zinc plays a key role in regulating how neurons communicate with one another, affecting how we learn and how memories are formed.

Zinc also shows promising results treating acne, according to one study.

It is not difficult to make sure you are getting sufficient amounts of zinc in your diet; just ensure that you are eating plenty of beans, animal meats, nuts, seafood, whole grain cereals and dairy products. Ideally, you will take in about 10 to 15 milligrams a day. Copper, calcium and folic acid can reduce your body's zinc absorption, while red wine, glucose, lactose or soy protein will augment it.