Archive for the ‘Immune response’ Category

Zinc supplements and Zinc deficiency.

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

As summer rolls on and winter draws near for some us thoughts will turn to making it a time as comfortable as possible in spite of the inclement weather we might expect. For a lot of us this means making sure that our health is in top shape and the medicine cabinet is stocked with all the necessary items to beat the winter blues.

Prospects of the common cold, influenza, sore throats and a plethora of aches and chills are just a few weeks away and this is a good time to think about some strategies to beat the winter blues. However recent studies into one major area of prevention has thrown up some very interesting facts that people should be aware of. It is the whole area of zinc supplements and zinc deficiency.

Many of us run for the zinc lozenges zinc tablets and zinc sprays and gels at the first sniffle or the first sign of a flu or cold. But wait here a moment. Research has found that we may be doing more harm than good. While zinc is indeed important for a healthy immune system in that zinc stimulates the thymus gland to produce thymulin. Thymulin in turn stimulates T-cell and T4 helper cells to fight infection. These cells can be present in low numbers when individuals are zinc deficient, increasing the risk of contracting infections during the winter.

The problem is, as recent research has shown, is that the immune system is sensitive to zinc concentrations in the blood. Too little or too much zinc can have a negative effect on the immune system response. So before you race to the cabinet and take 25 or 50 mg of zinc remember that fact and also remember that excessive zinc consumption can lead to neuro degenerative problems as it is toxic in high doses.

So how much is enough I hear you say? Firstly remember that the WHO (World Health Organisation) estimates that up to 80% of Western society may be zinc deficient. This is mainly due to the poor nutrient availability in processed foods and fast food which are so common place nowadays and also to poor eating habits that are associated with modern lifestyles and corporate advertising. Meanwhile, the RDA for zinc is 11mg per day for men and 9 mg per day for women. This RDA actually varies between Governments and some set it as high as 15mg for both men and women and slightly higher again for pregnant and lactating women.

Based on this these facts alone a daily supplement of zinc should really provide no more than 3 or 4 mg of zinc with the rest coming from diet. Then one has to assume how bio available the zinc supplement in question is. If it claims to be highly bio available and a tablet contains 25 mg of zinc gluconate or zinc sulphate or some chelated form of zinc then one can immediately see the problem. How can one be sure of how much of the zinc they take is actually absorbed?

The bio availability issue is a very pertinent one and the bioavailability of many synthetic zinc supplements is very questionable. However there is a solution that many may not consider and it comes from beneath the waves of an ocean near you. It’s called oyster extract powder. Oysters are the highest natural source of zinc. This zinc in oyster extract powder is highly bio available as it is already bound to active transport molecules making it easily absorbed. Another important aspect is also that along with the zinc you have zinc co-factors like manganese, copper and selenium and all the other 59 trace elements the body needs for proper physiological functioning.

If you want to try an oyster extract powder supplement email the manufacturer and ask them how much zinc is in each capsule of the product. Only the more conscientious brands will know this, be aware of this and be able to recommend a daily dosage based on this. With some brands you may have to take 20 capsules to get 3 or 4 milligrams of organic zinc while with some of the better brands this could be only 3 or 4 capsules daily assuming they have manufactured the powder with zinc potency in mind.

The bottom line is that taking an oyster extract powder supplement to increase the immune system response in winter is probably one of the safest and most effective ways to augment what should be a healthy lifestyle during those months when we are at risk.

Oyster extract can boost the immune system response.

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

When one thinks of fresh oysters the mind usually races to images of Casanova, seduction and sexual libido. Not many people think immunity, cold and flu prevention or infection resistance. And yet, down there in the depths of the ocean, the oyster has an incredible story to tell about it’s own immunity and it also has some pretty remarkable benefits for those bold enough to partake of this delicacy. And for those who just can’t handle that slithery sensation, happy days, oyster extract has arrived to boost the immune response and lift those winter blues.

Oyster extract is the dried meat of the oyster. It is then powdered and placed in a capsule or made into a tablet. Assuming it is manufactured with due regard for the time of harvest, it contains all 59 of the trace elements needed by the body, vitamins, amino acids, taurine, omega 3 & 6 fish oils and it is the highest natural source of the trace element zinc. Only oyster extract harvested at times of the year when zinc potency is highest can boast this claim, and very few of the companies making oyster extract recognise this.

It is this natural, organic, bio available zinc which is of great interest to us. The oyster accumulates zinc to much higher levels than any other animal known. The reason for this, while not clearly defined by science, has a lot to do with the oysters own immunity. The oyster operates an open circulation system and when invading bacteria enter it, the oyster’s immune response springs into action. During this defence a process called the ‘metabolic burst’ occurs which results in the destruction of the invading pathogen but also results in the release of large amounts of free radicals which could harm tissues and organs if not eliminated. To mop up these free radicals the oyster produces large quantities of an anti-oxidant called SOD or superoxide dismutase. However to make SOD the oyster needs lots of zinc, and this is most likely the reason they have such high levels of zinc in the body.

The good news for us is that if we take an extract that is produced with due regard for these SOD molecules, we will be taking a very potent form of zinc supplement that will have a very beneficial effect on our own immunity. This zinc will come bound in transport molecules that will make it highly bio available as opposed to the many synthetic and chelated alternatives available.

This zinc stimulates the immune response by causing the Thymic gland to produce thymulin. Thymulin stimulates the T-Cells and the T4 helper cells and both these cells are critical to a healthy immune system. This same zinc also helps our bodies produce human SOD just like in the oyster, and when our bodies are fighting infection and producing free radicals, it mops these up preventing further tissue damage in our bodies.

A strong immune system can help offset the common cold and influenza when winter looms large. An improved immune system response is also of great benefit to anyone with compromised immunity like HIV patients or people undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Certain groups who are prone to zinc deficiency will also benefit greatly from a course of oyster extract. These include the elderly whose zinc absorption slows with age, alcoholics, and athletes who secrete a lot of zinc during training.

Finally, a cautionary note for those planning to take a course of oyster extract. Not all oyster extracts are the same. In the last year alone 2 products of Chinese origin have been taken off the market because of contamination from banned substances. Only use an extract which comes from manufacturers with proper certification such as FDA or European Union approval. Both these entities have similar high standards. Ask your supplier where the oysters used to make the extract come from, if it is a pure extract with no additives, and then make an informed decision.