What Is It?
Zinc is an essential trace mineral. Every cell in the body needs this nutrient and hundreds of body processes rely on it, from the immune system and the enzymes that produce DNA to the senses of taste and smell. Although the body does not produce zinc on its own, this mineral is readily available in drinking water and certain foods. Even so, a surprising number of adults fail to get enough of this mineral through their diet.
There's now evidence that supplements may also be useful in providing the extra zinc needed to fight cold and flu symptoms. In addition, zinc has shown promise for speeding the healing of canker sores and sore throat, promoting recovery from skin injuries, reducing tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and controlling acne and eye problems.
Zinc is believed to promote a strong immune system by, among other things, revitalizing the thymus gland and its production of white blood cells. In addition, autoimmune diseases (chronic ailments linked to the improper functioning of the immune system, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia) may also benefit from zinc supplementation.
Interestingly, the presence of too little zinc has been linked to a decreased immune response in older people. Again, supplemental zinc may be a viable remedy. In a study of 118 relatively healthy but elderly nursing home residents in Italy, researchers found that those given 25 mg of zinc daily for three months developed stronger immune systems.
By boosting the immune system, zinc may also protect against fungal infections and various infectious disorders, such as conjunctivitis and pneumonia. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.