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It is well established that Zinc plays a vital role for the integrity of the immune system. Zinc insufficiency can have widespread implications on multiple components of the immune system. Zinc’s role in the immune system is to support the innate and adaptive immune responses. It supports both cell mediated functions, including cytokine production, as well as humoral immunity responsible for creating antibodies to antigens (foreign invaders). Zinc deficiency can impair macrophage and neutrophil functions (chemotaxis, phagocytosis, oxidative Burst), natural killer cell activity and complement activity.
The EFSA Panel concluded that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the dietary intake of zinc and the normal function of the immune system.
Indigestion is defined as a feeling of fullness, bloating, belching, aching and/or gas shortly after eating. It is believed that indigestion can often be linked back to lowered stomach acid (1,2).
Zinc is a mineral needed by both the immune system and digestive system, and is obtained through a varied diet. When it comes to digestion, zinc helps support the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach.* Sufficient hydrochloric acid is needed to help break food down, especially proteins. This initial breakdown of food in the stomach allows for proper absorption in the small intestine. Those who experience occasional indigestion may benefit from additional zinc, since these symptoms may be associated with decreased levels of hydrochloric acid (3,4).
Oysters, lean red meat, whole-grain cereals, pulses and legumes are the highest sources of dietary zinc. However, vegetarian sources of zinc such as whole-grain cereals and legumes contain a compound called phytates that may bind to some of the zinc and inhibit its absorption, leading to less than optimal levels. Therefore vegetarians and vegans are at a greater risk for zinc insufficiency than meat eaters, and may require up to 50% more of the RDA to meet their needs.
Kristensen et al. found that zinc intake from meat diets was 20-24% higher than from the vegetarian diet. Additionally, meat-diets had a significant increase in total zinc absorption of 45-50% compared to the vegetarian diet that was of comparable calorie and phytic acid content.