Zinc is an essential trace element, influencing growth and affecting the development and integrity of the immune system. It is an important cofactor in several genes that are involved in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression. It is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, such as certain mushrooms, oysters, beef and lamb. People on a vegan diet may have a lower daily intake of zinc and are at a greater risk for zinc deficiency.
Zinc is involved in numerous aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes and it plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for proper sense of taste and smell. A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system.2
Zinc-deficient persons experience increased susceptibility to a variety of pathogens. It is clear that zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, from the barrier of the skin to gene regulation within lymphocytes. Zinc supplementation can significantly reduce the morbidity and mortality of apparently well-nourished children and shorten the time to recovery from acute infectious diseases.
Zinc has also recently been associated with severity of COVID-19 symptoms. Patients with more severe COVID-19 symptoms appear to have lower zinc levels, however, retrospective studies of hospitalalized patients found no mortality benefit from zinc supplementation. 4
covid, type 2 diabetes, immune system