Zinc to Help Prevent COVID

So Kelowna got hit with a number of COVID cases in the past week. And while many of the cases seemed to be tied to a younger crowd partying downtown, this serves as a good reminder to the rest of us that we’re not out of the woods.

We still need to wash our hands, disinfectant surfaces, maintain social distancing and self isolate if we’re under the weather or travel. As well, exercise can be one of the best things we can do to keep our immune system strong. And we can’t forget the benefits nutrition can play in keeping us healthy.

One nutrient in particular that may help is zinc.

Sources of Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient meaning we need to get it in the diet as our bodies cannot produce it. Red meat, chicken and shell fish will be our best sources of this nutrient but we also get it from baked beans, chick peas and nuts. Fortified cereals commonly tout being a source of zinc but this should be considered a last option compared to the other whole, fresh food options listed above.

Why Vegans & Vegetarians May Need More Zinc

Vegans and vegetarians should be more aware of their zinc intake for a couple of reasons. The first is the primary sources are from animal products. Secondly vegetables and grains containing phytates which will reduce the absorption of zinc. So it is even more imperative for vegans and vegetarians to meet the minimum daily amounts listed below.

How Much Zinc Do We Need?

In terms of how much zinc we should get, women should aim for 8 milligrams (mg) and men 11 mg per day. Deficiencies may lead to delayed growth in children, an increased risk of infection and possibly pneumonia. It is estimated that approximately 1.5 billion people are deficient in zinc. However, even though zinc is an essential nutrient and deficiency is widespread it is possible to overdose. Too much zinc can lead to nausea, loss of appetite and cramps.

Role of Zinc

When we do eat enough zinc this helps with enzyme support. Enzymes are biological catalysts and speed up the rate of reaction. Zinc is also important for our cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems. And with respect to our immune function, zinc helps with the production and maturation of white blood cells (WBC). Some WBCs produce antibodies which help fight pathogens in the body. Lastly zinc helps us avoid chronic inflammation.

Zinc & COVID

With the COVID pandemic zinc may play an important role. While it helps boost anti-viral immunity and curb inflammation there is also a connection to chloroquine.

It appears chloroquine increases the uptake of zinc. And if it ended there that would be a great thing. But there are known side effects including headache, nausea, diarrhea, rash and more. So probably not worth it.

But zinc has been used many years to block the replication of rhinoviruses such as the common cold. Higher levels of zinc help block the production of rhinoviruses and stimulate interferon alpha production. This helps cells close by to start the anti-viral defense process.

The take message is check a list of zinc containing foods. If you’re not eating these foods regularly look to add them to the plan. If you don’t animal products it’s even more important you hit your daily requirement of this nutrient.

Citation

Skalny, A. V., Rink, L., Ajsuvakova, O. P., Aschner, M., Gritsenko, V. A., Alekseenko, S. I., & Tsatsakis, A. (2020). Zinc and respiratory tract infections: Perspectives for COVID‑19. International Journal of Molecular Medicine46(1), 17-26.

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