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We always speak of eating a complete balanced meal with a fair proportion of fats, carbohydrates, proteins along with necessary micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. One such trace mineral is zinc.
At present, there are no vaccines or pharmaceutical therapies that can definitively prevent COVID-19 infection. The only initiative being undertaken by people all over the world is on improving their immune system and maintaining overall health to prevent infection with the virus.
This article will give you an insight into the importance of zinc for the human body, zinc supplements for coronavirus, and also how taking too much zinc can have side effects on the body.
Why Is Zinc Important For The Body?
Although zinc is a trace mineral, it is important for numerous cellular functions of the body. Just like other minerals in our body, zinc has its own set of potential health benefits such as;
- Stabilizing membrane structures
- Cell proliferation and differentiation
- Prevents the formation of free radicals, therefore it has an antioxidant effect and improves immune function
- Promotes control of blood sugar levels
- Useful for skin - Fights against acne and other inflammatory conditions of the skin
- Promotes cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood
- Prevents age-related vision loss (macular degeneration) or slows down its progress, therefore it is important for vision
- Essential for normal pregnancy
Zinc can be found naturally in foods like;
- Meat and seafood including oysters, crabs, lobsters, and shellfish
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes, lentils, and beans
- Fortified breakfast cereals
It is quite difficult to diagnose deficiency of zinc as there is no definitive test to assess zinc levels in the body. However, zinc deficiency is associated with conditions like;
- Growth retardation among children
- Poor pregnancy outcomes like intrauterine growth retardation and low birth weight
- Anorexia nervosa
- Diabetes mellitus
- Postoperative loss of zinc through urine
- Skin disorders resulting in a dermal loss like psoriasis, pemphigus, or burns
Zinc And The Common Cold
Common cold, as the name suggests is one of the commonest acute illnesses affecting millions worldwide. An average person experiences the common cold at least 2-4 times a year.
Human trials have proven that viral replication in the common cold occurs before or within 1 day of the appearance of clinical symptoms and inhibition of viral replication is possible by zinc treatment.
Oral administration of zinc is capable of reducing the duration of symptoms of common cold among adult patients. This effect of zinc against the common cold occurs by inhibition of prostaglandin metabolism.
An in vitro research study revealed that zinc ions are capable of preventing replication of common cold viruses, helping to control infection. Since zinc has potential anti-viral properties, the use of zinc lozenges is recommended frequently during or even after symptoms of the common cold subside.
Zinc Supplements For Coronavirus
Each day, the world health care systems are trying to find out newer ways to deal with the novel coronavirus. It has already been proven that zinc is necessary for the human body to carry out an effective antiviral response.
The possible ways by which zinc can be useful against coronavirus infection is;
- It prevents the formation of viral capsid proteins of common cold viruses in vitro preventing replication of the virus.
- A hypothesis suggests that a positively charged zinc ion can bind to the negatively charged regions of the virus, thereby preventing damage to the cell membrane.
- Additionally, zinc helps to protect or stabilize the cell membrane which prevents entry of the virus into the cell.
Can Zinc Supplements Protect From Coronavirus?
Current guidelines for the treatment of coronavirus suggest the use of hydroxychloroquine along with zinc supplements because zinc is a general stimulant of antiviral immunity. Also, zinc supplementation is considered relatively safe based on recommended daily dietary allowances.
A recent study has claimed that zinc has a protective activity among children and the administration of zinc may result in a reduction of signs and symptoms and lower chances of getting cold.
By the following possible mechanisms know how zinc supplements for coronavirus can help;
- Cytotoxic activity T-lymphocytes or the ability of these cells to fight against infection and eliminate it depend greatly upon zinc for clearance of viral infections. Zinc either stimulates the bone marrow to produce more T-lymphocytes or enhances their survival.
- A hypothesis suggests that zinc can suppress inflammation and infection by interfering with the binding of leukocyte function-associated antigen-1.
- Zinc supplements can protect from coronavirus due to their influence on the formation of inflammatory cytokines.
- Lastly, zinc also has the capacity to alter the permeability of capillaries which favors the reduction of swelling, inflammation, and mucous secretion.
Side Effects Of Taking Too Much Zinc
As we know that excess of anything can be harmful; similarly, taking too much zinc in unmonitored doses or in doses higher than the daily recommended intake for a particular age and gender can cause unwanted symptoms.
It is always advisable to consult a doctor for such supplements. Some common side effects of taking too much zinc are;
- Altered taste or bad taste
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Dosages exceeding
- Flu-like symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and cough
- Taking too much zinc can also hamper the absorption and metabolism of copper by the body, leading to an additional mineral deficiency
- Taking too much zinc also reduces the effectiveness of certain
Zinc has a marked effect in providing protection to the body against several types of viruses like the rhinovirus and syncytial viruses responsible for the common cold, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and Hepatitis causing viruses. It is known for its protective role against bacterial infections and some autoimmune disorders like type-1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
Zinc is an essential mineral for the maintenance of the immune system. Therapeutic zinc supplementation is found to be effective in both the management and prevention of many bacterial and viral illnesses. It is easily available from food sources mentioned above or even through supplements by prescription from a registered practitioner in an appropriate dose.