Because of the way food is grown in today's world, and the poor food choices that many people make, there is a higher tendency for people to have deficiencies in micro-nutrients. It is therefore possible to be "well fed" yet, at the same time, malnourished.
For example, I could eat a thousand calories of french fries for a meal (which is a lot of calories) yet I will be malnourished because the food did not contain many of the necessary nutrients for health.
One of the nutrients that is often lacking in many Singaporeans is zinc.
In my personal training and fitness boot camp centre, we test our clients for zinc deficiency. This is because a lack of zinc will result in reduced results for clients in terms of fat-burning, energy levels or muscle building.
Here are some reasons why zinc is important, and at the end of the article I will explain how to test for zinc deficiency and how to correct it.
Zinc is involved in more than 300 reactions in our body, so if we are deficient it will certainly affect us.
The mineral's impact
Zinc is involved in fat-burning because it helps nutrients enter healthy cells, reducing the amount of energy that gets stored in fat.
Zinc also helps the detoxification of alcohol so, if you drink, you are even more likely to be lacking zinc.
A low zinc level also results in higher copper absorption which is linked to worsen premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms and lower thyroid function (lower metabolism). High copper also increases the heavy metal load and oxidative stress on your body (early aging).
Zinc helps the pancreas produce insulin and protect the cells' ability to absorb nutrients. This is especially important if you are overweight or have a history of diabetes in your family.
Zinc also helps protect your nerves, reducing the risk of brain-related diseases like Alzheimer.
Zinc improves sperm quality and increases sex drive. It also prevents the conversion of male hormones to female hormones resulting in more fat storage especially in the chest area of males.
Zinc also help make the healthy omega 3 and 6 fats into forms that are useful to your body.
Zinc is depleted by stress, hot climates, cold climates, illness, alcohol consumption, eating disorders, lack of meat and egg consumption.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include reduced taste and smell of foods, increased desire for salty and sweet foods, brittle finger nails, acne, low sex drive and excess fat storage on the chest (man-boobs).
Here is how you can do a quick and cheap test without taking any blood samples.
Besides visible signs like brittle and heavily ridged fingernails, you can get a bottle of zinc sulphate solution. You take a teaspoon of it and swish it around in your mouth for about 10 seconds.
In functional medicine there are four levels of findings from this test.
- Level 1 - tastes like water, you are in trouble!
- Level 2 - vague taste that develops over time, you are moderately deficient
- Level 3 - slight initial taste that gets stronger over time, mildly deficient
- Level 4 - very strong, unpleasant and immediate taste -- tastes like you just ate a piece of your car!... great news, your zinc status is great.
If you are lacking, take a 25-50mg of a good zinc supplement for 6-8 weeks then do the zinc taste test again. (A good zinc supplement combines different forms of zinc in the chelate form ending with "-ate" e.g. zinc orotate). Brands I recommend are Poliquin, Life Extension and Designs for Health. Available at good doctors or... my gym.
Repeat till you are well "zinc-ed up".
There we have it. A simple test for a problem that is easily fixable with an affordable test and supplement program.
From my experience you will notice better taste and morning energy within 6-8 weeks.
Or you could just eat 20 oysters a day -- natures best source of zinc.
Coach Jonathan Wong is a Singapore personal trainer and performance expert. He is also a fitness author and a member of Singapore Men's Health Advisory Panel.