Zinc for Brain Health
The fight for attention has never been so difficult. From social media, eye-catching ads, and cat videos, staying focused on everyday tasks has become harder than ever. In fact, a recent study has suggested how we spend almost 45% of our day not focused on the task at hand. Hiding your phone does help a bit, but finding solutions to improve focus is better since it comes with an added bonus of better efficiency and productivity, something your boss would definitely approve of.
But how do we get there? The key lies in providing appropriate nourishment to the brain. To achieve great focus, your nerve cells need to be performing at optimal levels. The faster and longer your nerves fire, the better. In addition to this, your brain also needs a proper supply of oxygen-rich blood for an extra boost in focus. To accomplish this, give your brain the VIP nutrient treatment it deserves. A great supplement, to begin with, is zinc.
The Zing with Zinc: What is this Nutrient and Why is it so Hyped?
Despite being a trace element, something your body needs in minute quantities, the role zinc plays in overall health and cognition is huge. It is required by over 100 different enzymes to carry out their catalytic activities. The presence of zinc is also critical for wound healing, protein synthesis, cell division, immune response, and DNA synthesis: activities without which survival is impossible. Adequate levels of this trace element are needed for development and growth when we are young, and as we grow up, it helps us develop the senses of smell and taste.
But where did zinc come from? The earliest physical evidence of this mineral comes from the wreck of “Relitto del Pozzino,” an ancient ship that sank off the coast of Tuscany in 120 B.C. Archeologists were able to retrieve a 2000-year-old medicine chest from the remains of the ship containing several tin boxes. Inside these tins, they found five medicinal tablets with traces of zinc which, as the ancient scriptures narrate, was used as an effective eyewash.
Today, we are familiar with countless benefits this mineral plays in sustaining life, thanks to modern science. In addition to its role in supporting the immune system, zinc is needed to regulate digestion, metabolism, and nerve function. Another major role played by this trace element is helping the body heal. The body needs it to repair and grow cells to maintain healthy skin.
Hopefully, most of you are already aware of these general benefits of zinc for the body. But did you know that it can also positively impact your brain? Let’s find out more about it in the next section
Zinc for Brain: Exploring the Connection
If you are looking for something to enhance your wellness routine, you may consider adding zinc to your supplement lineup. Afterall, the mineral is purportedly important for wound healing, immunity, and other tasks of the body. Interestingly, these benefits associated with zinc extend beyond these cliched roles to include the brain.
Yes, you heard it right. Zinc carries the potential to alter your brain function, but in a positive way, and research confirms it. In fact, several studies investigating this link has come up with different cognitive benefits that can be enjoyed by merely adding a zinc supplement to your daily routine. Let’s briefly discuss these benefits below.
Zinc and Memory Formation
As a trace element that’s commonly ignored by many, zinc carries a particularly important role in the brain. It is used by the brain to synthesize new neurons, particularly in the hippocampal area. Consider the hippocampus as a temporary hard drive that stores your emotions and memories along with other sensations. However, it is not a long-term storage facility for your memories as its main role is to develop them. Once the memories develop in the hippocampus, they are consolidated and made long-term as you sleep.
Having low levels of zinc in the body can stunt this process, making it challenging for your hippocampus to create and store new memories. But with enough zinc in the system, you can engage in all personal and professional duties while protecting your precious memories.
Zinc and Brain Fog
Aside from forming new memories, zinc has also been associated with neurogenesis (a process of making new brain cells) as well as improving communications between different brain cells. When brain cells are unable to communicate with each other properly, brain fog occurs.
While it’s difficult to define brain fog, most people describe it as an inability to think or focus properly. Some even call it a fuzzy feeling in the brain that no longer makes you feel like yourself. Whatever you choose to call it, brain fog can impair your ability to make logical decisions, making it a more serious issue than it appears on the surface.
But lucky for you, we finally have a solution to prevent clouding the brain function: zinc. Brain fog can happen due to several reasons, such as due to certain medications, chronic illnesses, and lifestyle choices. Some experts speculate its prevalence with high levels of inflammation. But thanks to the anti-inflammatory action of zinc, this cause can be well controlled to keep your brain functioning healthily.
Zinc and Mental Illness
A lack of zinc has been commonly associated with mental illness, particularly depression and anxiety. On the contrary, supplementing this mineral increases the serotonin uptake in selective regions of the brain; thereby increasing the efficacy of the antidepressants you are taking. It’s high time you combined your regular pills with a zinc supplement at once.
Choosing a Zinc Supplement: What to Keep in Mind
Thinking of buying a zinc supplement? Do not expect to go to a random drug store and buy the first supplement bottle you can find. It’s not easy finding the right zinc supplement that can provide you with all the cognitive benefits you are hoping for.
Before you take a trip to the supermarket, it is important to familiarize yourself with the different types of zinc supplements available in the market. These commonly include zinc gluconate, zinc ascorbate, zinc sulfate, zinc picolinate, and different other forms. What makes these forms different is the percentage of bioavailability of zinc i.e. amount of zinc that can get absorbed to reach the bloodstream when you consume a supplement containing it. For example, the bioavailability of zinc in different salts are mentioned below.
- Zinc Ascorbate: 15%
- Zinc Citrate: 31%
- Zinc Bisglycinate: 25%
- Zinc Chloride: 48%
- Zinc Carbonate: 52%
- Zinc gluconate: 30%
- Zinc Picolinate: 20%
- Zinc Sulphate: 22%
So if you are using a supplement with 50 mg of zinc picolinate, for example, you will only be able to absorb 20% of it to be used by your brain. So choose a supplement with good bioavailability.
What’s even more important than bioavailability is the fine balance that a good supplement offers between zinc and copper. Within the body, zinc can reduce the amount of copper your body absorbs because copper competes with its to bind to a certain receptor protein. Hence, for as long as you use a zinc supplement, you need something to replenish your decreasing copper levels too. A supplement that offers both of these to maintain a good ratio of copper and zinc can be your best choice.
Exploring the Side Effects of Zinc
Consuming too much zinc can lead to zinc toxicity, characterized by diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and headaches. So always consult a healthcare provider before using zinc to improve your brain function to minimize the chances of an overdose.
If you are taking a medicine, such as tetracycline antibiotics or penicillamine, consuming a zinc supplement simultaneously can inhibit their absorption. To prevent this cross-interaction, the best thing to do is to take your zinc pill at least 2 hours before or after you take other medicines.
Zinc can raise your blood pressure, making it potentially unsafe for people with hypertension. To best benefit from zinc without going overboard, always talk to a doctor first before using a zinc supplement. While it is one of the most useful nutrients for optimal wellness, striking the right balance is necessary to reap the benefits.
Zinc is a trace element naturally found in the body. While the body needs only a little bit of it, the mineral itself does a lot. Among all other health benefits, the brain needs it to improve memory formation, reduce brain fog, and increase focus.
To best benefit from zinc without going overboard, always talk to a doctor first before using a zinc supplement. While it is one of the most useful nutrients for optimal wellness, striking the right balance is necessary to reap the benefits.
- Frequently Asked Questions
The common symptoms of a zinc deficiency include hair loss, craving for sweet or salty foods, eating disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, fluctuations in blood weight, acne and other skin disorders, poor memory and concentration, infertility and impotence, hormonal issues, such as PMS, impaired sexual growth, hyperactivity (similar to ADHD) and many more.
Experts recommend using 30 mg of zinc every day, balanced with approximately 2 mg of copper. Remember that overdosing cannot lead to faster benefits but will only increase the risk of toxicity.
Zinc can be obtained from meat (beef, chicken, pork),, legumes (chickpeas and kidney beans), nuts(almonds and cashews), oatmeal, and milk products such as cheese.
- Zinc in Wound Healing Modulation
- The role of zinc in the treatment of taste disorders
- Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function
- High Dose Zinc Supplementation Induces Hippocampal Zinc Deficiency and Memory Impairment with Inhibition of BDNF Signaling
- Supplementation with Zinc in Rats Enhances Memory and Reverses an Age-Dependent Increase in Plasma Copper
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc-dependent NF-κB signaling
- Effects of Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Major Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial