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Zinc plays a number of crucial functions in your body:
Accelerates the activity of approximately 100 different body enzymes
Promotes immune function to fight illness
Supports healthy cell growth and development
Ensures proper sense of taste and smell
Zinc is a cofactor for more than 300 enzymes needed for cell function in the eyes, kidneys, muscles, skin, and bones. As a component of metalloenzymes, zinc provides structural integrity to the enzyme and/or participates directly in the reaction at the catalytic site.
Zinc also serves as a necessary structural component of DNA-binding proteins that affect gene expression (the so-called "zinc finger").
Alcohol dehydrogenase contains four zinc ions per molecule. This enzyme is important in the conversion of retinol to retinal, which is needed for vision. Zinc appears to provide an additive effect to antioxidants in promoting good visual acuity.
Another of zinc's important physiological roles involves cell membranes. Zinc affects the activity of enzymes attached to plasma membranes. Some of these enzymes include alkaline phosphatase, carbonic anhydrase, and superoxide dismutase. Zinc also directly affects cell membranes by stabilizing phospholipids and thiol groups that need to be maintained in a reduced state to prevent peroxidative damage.
As the cofactor for many enzymes, zinc frees the vitamin folate so that it can move across the cell membrane. It also aids in the manufacture of heme and in essential fatty acid metabolism, and it helps release vitamin A from its storage place in the liver.
Meat, liver, eggs, saurkraut and seafood (particularily shell fish) are considered good food sources of zinc.
High intakes of zinc for an extended period of time can negatively affect copper absorption. Generally, zinc intake is considered completely safe at levels below 60mg/d.
For additional information (including a list of references), please refer to the zinc technical bulletin at http://www.usana.com/dotCom/company/science/components.
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