By now everyone has heard about the devastating effects of respiratory viruses such as the coronavirus, especially among the most vulnerable. While many people have decided to bunker down and wait out the storm, others, like the brave front line essential workers, have no other choice but to face the danger head on. No matter which group you fall into, everyone can agree on one thing, and that's taking measures to ensure optimal personal health and hygiene.
Supplementing your diet with more zinc should be at the top of your list as a immune fortifying precaution. The World Health Organizations (WHO) states that zinc is a trace mineral essential to all forms of life because of its fundamental role in gene expression, cell development and replication (Hambridge 2000). Severe or clinical zinc deficiency (about 31% worldwide) is characterized by short stature, hypogonadism, impaired immune function, skin disorders, cognitive dysfunction andanorexia (Prasad 1991) (1).
Moreover, according to Frontiers in Immunology, a leading journal on nutritional immunology, those deficient in Zinc are more susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
Interestingly, most of the risk groups described for COVID-19 are at the same time groups that were associated with zinc deficiency. As zinc is essential to preserve natural tissue barriers such as the respiratory epithelium, preventing pathogen entry, for a balanced function of the immune system and the redox system, zinc deficiency can probably be added to the factors predisposing individuals to infection and detrimental progression of COVID-19 (2).
One of the most important takeaways from the above passage is zinc's ability to 'preserve natural tissues barriers such as the respiratory epithelium'. Imagine the respiratory epithelium being the chimney to the body while zinc is the mortar between the bricks that prevents harmful smoke from seeping into the home before billowing outside.
Therefore, disturbances in the integrity of the respiratory epithelia may facilitate the entry of the virus as well as co-infecting pathogens and can lead to pathogens entering the blood stream. In other words, zinc supplementation helps moisten and protect the airways while bolstering the defense to pathogens.
Are you starting to see why zinc is so vital for your overall health??
Our own National Institute of Health (NIH) had this to say about zinc: it 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.
The NIH encourages consumers to enjoy a wide variety of foods containing zinc such as oysters, beans, nuts, whole grains, fortified cereals, and dairy products although most Americans receive their zinc intake through red meant poultry.
Below is an NIH table that instructs persons on the 'Recommended Dietary Allowance' for zinc (4).
It's well proven that the mighty hemp seed is ounce for ounce the best among seeds for its zinc content followed closely by pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, cashews and sunflower. With a whopping 3 mg of zinc per ounce (or 26% of your Daily Value) it only takes a handful of hemp seeds thrown into your salad, shake, stir fry, or yogurt in order to satisfy NIH's daily recommendations.
And if you're looking to satisfy all your zinc needs at once, let's say, at dinnertime, it's as simply as wharfing down an entire bowl of our 'nuttily delicious' Gourmet Hempasta.
For those concerned parents who are sending their kids back to school during the pandemic, we've made it easy to supplement your child's diet with more zinc by packaging hulled and toasted hemp seeds in 1.25 OZ cups which are ideal lunch bag-stuffers.
Lastly, hemp seed being a zinc powerhouse is only part of the story; hemp seeds are also renowned for being a complete protein with all 23 Amino Acids, as well as, being exceptionally gut healthy due to their high fiber and digestible protein content.
In conclusion, the experts all agree that zinc supplementation improves the mucociliary clearance, strengthens the integrity of the epithelium, decreases viral replication, preserves antiviral immunity, attenuates the risk of hyper-inflammation, supports anti-oxidative effects and thus reduces lung damage and minimized secondary infections. Especially older subjects, patients with chronic diseases and most of the remaining COVID-19 risk group, would most likely benefit (2).