Zinc is an essential mineralknown to improve skin tone, aid wound healing, fight cancer and shorten the lengthof the common cold. Researchers publishing in the journalNeuron now identify the crucial rolethis super-nutrient plays in support of memory formation and cognitivestability. Additionally, they have found that zinc may also play a part incontrolling the devastating occurrence of epileptic seizures.
For the first time, scientistshave been able to watch zinc in action as the nutrient regulates communicationsbetween neurons and the hippocampus to improve memory and learningcapabilities. Ensuring proper intake of zinc is an important step towardoptimal brain function and may prevent cognitive decline as we age.
Zinc Improves Communication between Neurons to Improve Cognition
Researchers at Duke UniversityMedical Center and chemists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology collaboratedto study the effects of zincon brain function. Scientists experimenting with mice used a chemical thatbinds with zinc to eliminate it from the brain of the test animals. They foundthat in the absence of the mineral, communications between neurons wassignificantly diminished and that zinc is vital for controlling the efficiency between nerve cells in the hippocampus.
For more than a half century,scientists have understood that high concentrations of zinc are depositedwithin nerve cells, called vesicles that package the transmitters which enablenerve cells to communicate. The highest concentrations of brain zinc are foundamong the neurons of the hippocampus that control the high functions oflearning and memory.
Researchers Find Zinc Levels in the Brain Control Memory and LearningFunctions
By artificially regulating thelevel of zinc in the brain of the test animals, researchers were able toconfirm that eliminating zinc from the neural vesicles also prevented enhancedcommunication. By increasing levels of the mineral, they were able tosignificantly restore enhanced communications in the hippocampal region toimprove learning and memory capabilities.
The results of this studyconducted using mice can be extrapolated to humans because zinc is known toplay a similar role in the brain of both species. Zinc deficiency in the typicalwestern diet is rapidly becoming a serious problem that threatens human health.Due to poor farming practices and the abundance of nutrient-deprived processedfoods, many children and adults suffer from a chronic insufficiency of themineral.
Over time, lack of zinc from dietarysources can result in immune system depression, decline in sexual health andincreased risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Ideal dietary sources of zincinclude liver, beef and lamb. Vegetarians can include nuts, seeds and peas toobtain the micronutrient. Alternatively, zinc supplements are available (30 to50 mg per day) to help maintain healthy systemic levels that improve memory,learning and cognition.