(NaturalNews) Thyroid dysfunction is one of the most common hormone disorders in the world, but new research shows that supplementation with zinc can have dramatic benefits for those suffering from abnormal levels of thyroid hormones.
The thyroid is a two-inch gland that releases two separate hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones play essential roles in regulating a whole host of bodily processes, from metabolism and calcium balance to regulating the reproductive system and stimulating your cells to use oxygen and produce protein. The action of the thyroid gland is controlled by the pituitary gland, which secretes thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH); in turn, the pituitary is triggered to release TSH by the hypothalamus.
The thyroid is located at the front of the neck, below the voice box. The neck swelling known as "goiter" occurs when the body is not getting enough thyroid hormone, and the gland grows dramatically in order to boost its production.
Zinc and the thyroid gland
According to an April 2009 study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, zinc plays an essential role in thyroid hormone function. In fact, without the presence of zinc, the thyroid gland cannot transform the inactive hormone T4 into the active hormone T3. Furthermore, the hypothalamus also requires zinc to make the hormone it uses to signal the pituitary gland to activate the thyroid. All of this means that people with insufficient zinc levels are likely to have an underactive thyroid gland. Scientists have also found that zinc plays a role in promoting the activity of the thyroid receptors located inside the body's cells.
Zinc is the second most important trace mineral in the body, surpassed only by iron. It plays an important role in immune function, wound healing, blood clotting, reproduction, growth and smell - many of the same functions as the thyroid gland. Zinc deficiency is characterized by poor wound healing, loss of appetite, weight loss and white marks on the fingernails.
Supplementation boosts hormone levels
A 2007 study conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism found that physically active female college students with zinc deficiency were able to boost zinc, T3 and T4 levels in their blood simply by taking a 26 milligram zinc supplement (in the form of zinc glutonate) for four months. Over the same time period, their resting metabolic rate (RMR) also increased, a predicted effect of increased thyroid function.
"Zinc supplementation appeared to have a favorable effect on thyroid hormone levels, particularly total T(3), and RMR," the researchers wrote.
Notably; however, zinc supplementation also appeared to lead to decreases in serum ferritin concentrations, a measure of iron status. This suggests that zinc supplementation may lead to a drop in the body's iron levels. It is also well known that excessive zinc intake may lead to copper deficiency, which in turn can lead to a wide variety of health problems including over-absorption of T4 into the bloodstream and therefore an overactive thyroid hormone.
For these and other reasons, it is important that zinc supplementation (or any metal supplementation) be overseen by a trained health professional.