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Zinc and Blood Flow

By Bonnie Singleton

Poor blood circulation can contribute to heart disease, cognitive problems and sexual dysfunction. The essential mineral zinc has been used in folk medicine for everything from healing wounds to preventing blood clots, and it can also help improve blood flow. In addition, zinc has antioxidant properties that protect cells from damage and can create healthy veins and arteries that boost blood circulation.

Zinc Significance

Zinc plays an important part in promoting normal blood flow through the kidneys and in decreasing blood vessel resistance, as demonstrated in a Japanese study published in 1999 in “Biomedical Research on Trace Elements.” A team of scientists in Turkey also found that zinc helps dilate blood vessels, thins the blood and improves blood flow, according to research reported in that same publication in 2006.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which fatty material collects on the walls of your arteries and may eventually block arteries and blood flow. Zinc helps prevent the deterioration of endothelial cells lining the inner wall of blood vessels that can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, as demonstrated on a rat study published in the “Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology” in 2003.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is a common circulatory problem causing narrowed arteries that reduce blood flow to your limbs, most often your legs. A study published in “International Angiology” in December 2010 investigated several trace elements and their effects on blood flow to the extremities. The researchers found that patients with inflammation and artery blockage in their extremities had significantly reduced levels of zinc and selenium compared to healthy subjects. They concluded that a zinc deficiency contributed to the disease process.

Sexual Function

Many manufacturers of zinc supplements market them as a way to improve male sexual performance by increasing blood flow to the penis. Although there are no human scientific trials verifying such claims, zinc does appear to be related to the proper development of male sex organs and for prostate health. A study published in a 2000 issue of the journal “Toxicology Letters” found that zinc and selenium helped restore nitric oxide activity in penile erectile tissues. Nitric oxide is a molecule that plays a critical role in preventing vascular disease.

Considerations

Research studies have demonstrated it is safe for you to take less than 40 mg of zinc in supplement form for short periods. Common side effects with people taking normal amounts of zinc include nausea, vomiting and a metallic taste. High doses of zinc can actually weaken your immune system and raise cholesterol levels, as well as cause dizziness, headache, loss of muscle coordination, hallucinations and anemia.

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