Zinc is one of the most underrated of the minerals. We always hear about sodium and potassium, the electrolytes that control water retention; iron, which your body needs to produce red blood cells; calcium, a mineral vital for healthy bones; and even magnesium, which boosts energy levels, combats osteoporosis, improves bone health, and calms anxiety. But zinc is one of those minerals that get shunted off to the bottom of the list.
Well, here are a few reasons zinc is important:
- It plays a role in immune function.
- It keeps your digestive system working properly.
- It’s needed for healthy brain function.
- It regulates your sense of taste and smell.
- It is vital for reproductive health.
- It ensures properly metabolic function/calorie burning.
- And the list goes on.
According to a new study from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), zinc is also vital for a healthy heart. A shortage of zinc in the body can lead to oxidative stress on the heart muscle, which can lead to decreased cardiac function and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
The German researchers used piglets to analyze the effects of zinc deficiency and found that a lack of zinc affected the piglets’ heart muscles. The lack of zinc led to a decrease in glutathione and vitamin E, both of which protect the body from oxidative stress. Even at the earliest stages of stress-related damage to the heart muscle, a lack of zinc led to a higher predisposition toward heart disease.
The effects of zinc deficiency were very visible, even though the study only ran for a few days. The lack of zinc led to a faster cellular death (apoptosis) rate, meaning a drastic rise in cardiovascular health risk. The piglets’ bodies were simply unable to counteract the oxidative stress due to their lack of zinc. The heart compensated by depriving the other organs of zinc, which led to low-grade inflammation (a risk marker for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and organ damage).
1.Brugger, Daniel, and Wilhelm M. Windisch. “Short-Term Subclinical Zinc Deficiency in Weaned Piglets Affects Cardiac Redox Metabolism and Zinc Concentration.” The Journal of Nutrition 147, no. 4 (April 1, 2017): 521–27. doi:10.3945/jn.116.240804.