Zinc as an Anti-Aging Nutrient

By: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
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A common and powerful principle of adverse aging is that damaged proteins clump together and form some sort of sticky mess that gets in the way of healthy function and speeds the onset of disease. The classic example is damaged proteins that affect the nerves, a common finding in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. The new research shows that zinc is a required nutrient for the formation of properly structured proteins.

The bulk of your body’s metabolic activity within cells involves constructing gene signals and enzymes out of protein. These proteins require specific structures in order to do their job, which involves elaborate folding of the proteins. When this process becomes inefficient it leads to accumulation of damaged proteins that clump together and cause health problems associated with aging.

Zinc is now shown to be essential for the proper formation of protein. This will help offset the trend of wear and tear potentially anywhere in the body. The researchers were particularly excited about its implications for brain health. It is worth pointing out that flavonoids such as grape seed extract help to preserve the structure of these proteins, whereas zinc is helping to structure the proteins properly in the first place.

Some of the typical signs of significant zinc deficiency are slow growing nails (reflecting a reduced rate of protein synthesis), weak nails (reflecting poor protein integrity), and white spots on the fingernails (reflecting disrupted protein formation). Since nails are a fairly fast growing protein structure they are insightful as to the quality of protein metabolism elsewhere and serve as one simple way to predict zinc status.

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