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Upping Zinc In Diet Can Improve Cellular Health, Reduce DNA ‘Wear And Tear’

5 January 2017, 9:00 am EST By Dianne Depra Tech Times
Increasing zinc levels in the body can help boost cellular health, reducing oxidative stress and improving immunity. Biofortified wheat contains enough zinc to make that happen.  ( Sean Gallup | Getty Images )

Researchers have found that adding just 4 milligrams of zinc to a daily diet can dramatically improve cellular health and keep DNA "wear and tear" at bay.

In a study released in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers from the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Research Institute showed that consuming the equivalent of what biofortified crops, such as zinc wheat and rice, add to a diet can already aid in fighting infections and disease. The study was the first to demonstrate that a modest increase in levels of zinc in daily diets can help in reducing oxidative damage and stress to the DNA.

"We were pleasantly surprised to see that just a small increase in dietary zinc can have such a significant impact on how metabolism is carried out throughout the body," said study lead Janet King.

With the results of the study, a new approach is presented to measure the health effects of zinc, supporting evidence that show food-based interventions are effective in improving micronutrient deficiencies around the world.

Functions Of Zinc In The Body

Zinc is commonplace in the body and supports many functions crucial to life preservation. For instance, it has a role in ensuring growth in children and maintaining healthy immunity. Zinc is also capable of helping limit oxidative stress and inflammation in the body that is linked to higher risks for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A micronutrient, zinc is essential to almost 3,000 proteins in the body. As a crucial component to these proteins, it affects how they regulate each cell a person has. If there is insufficient zinc in the body, its ability to repair day-to-day wear and tear on DNA will be impaired.

Unfortunately, most households around the world eat refined wheat flour or polished white rice, which are great sources of energy but low in micronutrients like zinc.

For the study, the researchers carried out a randomized, controlled experiment to measure how zinc impacts metabolism in humans by counting breaks in the DNA strand. Guided by a sample of DNA damage, they examined the effects of moderate zinc levels on healthy living. According to the researchers, this is a novel strategy, differing from the usual way of testing for zinc in the blood or utilizing morbidity and stunting to assess zinc status.

According to King, the results of their study are relevant to the evaluation and planning of food-based solutions designed to mitigate the effects of malnutrition and hidden hunger. She is also of the belief that biofortification holds promise as a sustainable solution for zinc deficiency in the long term.

Food Sources Of Zinc

Eating food rich in zinc is an effective way to load up on the micronutrient, but another study has found that premixed cereals for babies don't all contain nutrients necessary for healthy development. Baby cereals are popular because they are affordable and easy to prepare but the lack of adequate nutritional content puts babies at a disadvantage.

Carried out by Tufts University researchers, the study showed that just 15 percent of baby cereals locally manufactured in 21 different African and Asian countries and Haiti meet standards for fat content, and just 25 percent contain enough zinc and iron.

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