As Covid-19 continues its grip on the world, and in catastrophic proportions in India, emphasis on immunity boosting supplements has only increased. Apart from Vitamin C, Zinc is another element so essential to our immune systems.
Zinc is a trace element; however, it remains a vital micronutrient for maintaining cellular physiology. Dr M Wasim Ghori, Director for Healthcare at Indian Economic Trade Organisation (IETO), Consultant Diabetologist and currently the Medical Director for a chain of Specialty Clinics in Mumbai, says, “Being an essential micronutrient for human health, Zinc plays a key role in the immune system.
It is associated with many biological functions in the human body and is involved in multiple cellular processes. Zinc is vital for more than 300 enzymes in the body and also plays a role in protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, cell division and is required for proper sense of taste and smell.”
Zinc deficiency dampens innate and adaptive immune responses. Zinc deficiencies are evident by oxidant stress, increased inflammatory process, and life-threatening situations, as well as premature cell death at the cellular and sub-cellular levels.
No, our body does not produce Zinc
Ironically, despite its importance to the human body, Zinc is not produced by it!
Dr Ghori explains, “Zinc cannot be produced or stored in the body and needs to be supplemented through diet. A daily intake of up to 15 mg of zinc is needed to maintain a steady state as there is no specific zinc storage system in the body.”
Even though there is not much available data on the direct relation of Zinc and Covid-19, its antiviral effect has been proven against other viral diseases especially pneumonia which as we all know is proving to be one of the deadly after effects of Covid-19 impacting the lungs.
Zinc supplementation has been influential in reducing the replication of influenza virus, reduction of hepatitis in HCV infected patients, enhancement of response to antiviral treatment, and most notable is the significant reduction of prevalence in pneumonia, especially in developing countries.
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Severe zinc deficiency depresses the immune function in humans. The body requires zinc to develop and activate T-lymphocytes which is a part of the immune system, develops from stem cells in the bone marrow and helps protect the body from infection. Lymphocytes are white blood cells, one of the body's main types of immune cells.
Individuals with low zinc levels have shown reduced lymphocyte proliferation. The alterations in immune function explains the association of low zinc status with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other diseases and zinc deficient person experiences increased susceptibility to a variety of infections including SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes Covid.
Dr Ghori advises, “Evidence suggests that Covid-19 is more common in people with compromised immunity. A strong immunity is a collective outcome of many factors, diet being one of them. Awareness should be increased on the use of zinc in boosting immunity. Regular dietary intake is recommended to maintain optimum level. In case of deficiency, pharmacological supplementation is advised after consulting a physician.”
Luckily a lot of foods are high in Zinc like: