Zinc is an essential mineral that your body needs to produce immune system cells and fight off bacterial and viral infections. Unfortunately, 40 percent of American seniors (and 12 percent of the general public) are at risk of being deficient in zinc, warns Oregon State University. If you want a strong immune system capable of fighting off infections, including various coronaviruses, here’s what you need to know about zinc and your immune system.

Why You Need Zinc

Researchers point out that zinc deficiency is the root cause of 16 percent of all respiratory infections in the world.

Zinc is an important mineral that is found in almost every single cell in your body and is one of the two most abundant minerals. And because of this, it plays a very important role. 

First and foremost is zinc’s impact on your immune system. Zinc is necessary for a quick and appropriate immune response to infections. And this includes infections like the current pandemic sweeping the planet.

Researchers point out that zinc deficiency is the root cause of 16 percent of all deep respiratory infections in the world. “[This] provides a first strong hint on a link of zinc deficiency with the risk of infection and severe progression of COVID-19 and suggests potential benefits of zinc supplementation,” explains the study, published in July 2020 in the Frontiers of Immunology journal.

And an earlier study on the common cold, which is another form of coronavirus, found that taking 80 mg of zinc a day helped cut the average duration of the common cold from eight days to just 4.5 days.

Of course, the impacts of zinc go far beyond COVID-19 and other coronaviruses. 

For example, additional research has found that taking zinc is linked with improving immune response time, and reducing the risk of all infections.

But that’s not all:

Signs of a Zinc Deficiency

zinc and your immune system

An oyster contains approximately 5 mg of zinc.

Men need a minimum of 11 mg of zinc a day, while women need a minimum of 8 mg daily. This number goes up if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you have any concerns about zinc and your immune system and how much zinc you’re currently taking, it’s important to talk to your doctor or a similar medical professional for a personal diagnosis. However, some general symptoms and signs that you’re deficient of this important mineral include: 

  • Wounds, skin sores and injuries that don’t heal 
  • Mental fatigue and a lack of alertness 
  • Gastrointestinal changes, such as loose stools or a loss of appetite

Risk factors for low levels of zinc include alcoholism, age (older adults tend to have lower levels of this immune-boosting mineral), pregnancy and breastfeeding, and diet.

How to Get More Zinc

Some of the best sources of zinc in your diet include:

  • Cooked oysters (approximately 5 mg of zinc per oyster) 
  • Beef (lean, ground beef has 5.4 mg of zinc in a 3-ounce serving) 
  • Nuts (for example, cashews have 1.6 mg in an ounce) 
  • Milk (1.1 mg in 8 ounces) 
  • Beans (0.9 mg in 1/2 cup)

If you choose to take a zinc supplement, you have many options. Zinc pairs well with many immunity-boosting supplements already on the market. For example, BioProPlus-500 includes 500 mcg of zinc in every serving, which helps to support its overall positive effects on your immune system. Combine supplements with a whole foods diet rich in zinc in order to get maximum benefits for your health, wellness and longevity! 

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