Make Sure You’re Not Short Of This Important Mineral
December 29th, 2014 by NHI
It’s a vital nutrient, a component of over 300 enzyme systems, involved in many body functions. It’s crucial for protein synthesis, reproduction and sexual development, healthy skin, the immune system, wound healing and the senses of taste, smell and sight.
It’s also vitally important for proper cognitive function. A deficiency in this mineral has been linked with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease. Keep reading for the full story. . .
Hidden Constipation Syndrome –
Zinc Can Help You Think
The mineral I’m talking about is zinc. It’s the brain’s most abundant trace metal.
Although zinc has been used in the treatment of depression, anorexia and schizophrenia, only recently have scientists uncovered the many crucial roles it plays in neurological health.
It acts as an antioxidant to stop unhealthy changes or death of brain cells.
It helps to prevent dysfunction of the mitochondria – the cells’ energy factories – in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain to suffer in Alzheimer’s disease. It plays an essential role in learning and memory. And its levels of zinc are among the highest found in the brain.
Communication between brain cells in the hippocampus depends on zinc. High levels of zinc are found in compartments of neurons called vesicles. A zinc pump called ZnT3 fills these up at the synapse, allowing them to fire and communicate with other nerve cells.
Enzymes that maintain protein stability and prevent the aggregation of beta amyloid proteins are zinc dependent. You probably recall that beta-amyloid proteins are the main component of plaques found in Alzheimer’s. Zinc is also needed for a gene called Tsa1 that likewise prevents proteins from clumping together.
Zinc protects against the overactivity of chemicals that can damage nerve cells and also prevents too much copper from entering the brain. High copper levels can have a number of damaging effects on your thinking ability (See Issue #20).
Needed For Healthy Cognitive Function
Much of the evidence concerning zinc’s effects on the brain have come from laboratory and animal research. However, there are a number of human studies that support its role in brain health.
In a study which induced acute zinc deficiency in adults, a few hallucinated, some became paranoid and others suffered with depression.
In two studies of volunteers who were fed zinc-deficient diets, participants in the first had less ability to memorize numbers and carry out perceptual tasks. In the second study, participants had decreased ability in psychomotor, perceptual, memory and spatial tasks.
The brains of twelve elderly nuns were examined after death. The number of plaques correlated with serum zinc concentrations taken a year before they died. The less zinc in the blood, the more plaques in their brains.
Alzheimer’s patients are known to be zinc-deficient based on their blood serum levels. This was first demonstrated in 2010. Although serum zinc declines with aging, there is a much more rapid decline in victims of Alzheimer’s disease. Amyloid plaques strongly bind to zinc, making the metal less available to carry out its functions.
Recently a six month trial was carried out that included 14 people over the age of 70 suffering from mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. They were given 150 mg of zinc a day. This is several times what conventional medicine considers a high dose of zinc.
The supplement significantly increased serum zinc and protected against loss of cognitive ability. This was not the case in the placebo group. They continued to show significant cognitive loss.
Low Zinc Levels are Common – and Overlooked
Zinc is known to have many vital roles in the mind and body. You don’t want to be deficient in this mineral.
The recommended daily allowance for adults is 8mg for women and 11mg for men. Even though these levels are quite modest – in fact, they’re absurdly low — the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found 35% – 45% of those over 60 had intakes below 6.8mg (women) and 9.4mg (men).
Best food sources of zinc are meat, seafood and poultry. Nuts, whole grains and most dairy products are good vegetarian sources. Oysters are famously high in zinc but I don’t think it’s very practical to eat them often.
Because this mineral is so important, and as we grow older we’re less able to utilize it, a daily supplement containing at least 15mg is recommended. I take 50 mg five days a week and 15 mg the other two days. Zinc becomes toxic at high levels.
The best and safest way is to have blood work done under the guidance of an alternative or integrative doctor, and adjust your nutrient intake as needed. That way you don’t have to guess whether you’re deficient – or whether your levels are so high they’re toxic.
The blood test results can be surprising. A couple of years ago I found I had incredibly high levels of selenium – also toxic in large amounts. I still have no idea why my levels got so high, but I was able to stop taking selenium supplements and achieve a healthy level.
Brain Formulas are Nice, But…
I see any number of supplement companies advertising various formulas containing herbs and nutrients to support your brain and memory. I don’t recall any containing zinc. And indeed I wouldn’t recommend putting zinc in a memory formula because so many people are likely to be taking zinc in other supplements – and there is some danger of taking too much.
What’s more, some of these memory formulas have so many ingredients they don’t provide a therapeutic dose of each one. There’s often just enough of ingredient “X” to allow the maker to say it’s there and put it on the label – “pixie dust” as it’s called by a supplement expert I know. The advertising leads you to think the formula is providing a therapeutic dose of whatever it is, but it’s not so.
Meaning: You can’t count on a so-called memory formula to contain everything you need. Our recommended supplement company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, has decided to take a different tack. It has started putting out a line of memory supplements with only one or two ingredients – but there’s enough of whatever it is to provide you with a full, therapeutic dose (for example, our new offering Brain Vitality Plus.)
This is generally what I do in my own supplement plan – not only for memory supplements but for all my supplements. I take each vitamin, each mineral and each herb in a separate pill. That way I can decide on the dose for each one and also purchase the highest quality form of each one.
I help formulate Green Valley’s supplements myself, so keep an eye out and kindly consider our offerings. They’re trying to bring you the best.
Lee Euler, Publisher