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Zinc: The End of the Alphabet but the Beginning of Health

Filed Under: Vitamins and Minerals at 9:33 am | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
The Letter ZVitamins and minerals are usually listed alphabetically. As such, the ones that top the list are the ones that garner the most attention. You know all about the wonders of vitamins A, B, C, D and E. You’re also pretty clear on calcium, folic acid, iron and even magnesium. But once you pass the alphabet’s mid-way point, your interest and concern start to waver. The poor vitamins and minerals that begin with N through Z are sadly ignored. And who can blame you? You only have so much energy, so much time to swallow pills and so much room in your brain for nutritional information. I completely understand, but I can’t condone the habit. The end of the alphabet deserves a little love, too. So for today at least, flip that list upside down and start at the bottom. Start with zinc.

Zinc is in almost every cell in your body.  It keeps your immune system healthy, heals wounds quickly, maintains your sense of taste and smell, helps synthesize DNA, and supports normal growth and development. It is consumed primarily through red meat and poultry but can also be found, for the vegetarians among us, in legumes, beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy products. However, it’s not as plentiful in leaves as it is in meat, so many vegetarians take daily zinc. And that’s wise, because zinc deficiency is common in the no-meat eaters, alcoholics, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and those with digestive disorders. If you’re not one of the listed, you probably aren’t at risk, but you still may have a reason for ingesting more zinc.

A study of 617 elderly nursing home residents showed that normal zinc levels decreased the likelihood of developing pneumonia.  If the infection did occur, it was more easily conquered, requiring fewer antibiotics and a shorter recovery period.  Moreover, the patients were less likely to die, which is definitely saying something. Pneumonia kills 60,000 Americans a year.  Many of them are the elderly. They’re immune systems are weakened by age-related ailments and even more vulnerable because of their living arrangements (nursing homes, namely), so the bacteria are quick to invade and slow to leave. The right amount of zinc can help stop that, boosting health and lengthening life. If you’re at a higher risk for pneumonia, you may want to talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of increasing your zinc intake. Then, add A to Z and revel in an entire alphabet of health.

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