Neurological Impact of Zinc Excess and Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is an essential mineral that can cause pathological effects whether in excess or deficiency.  Zinc is a component for over 250 enzymes and is required for cell growth, cell division, and cell function. Zinc is found in muscle and bones, with the prostrate, liver, skin, and kidney having detectable levels of zinc. However, zinc present in excess or deficiency can cause significant pathology in patients that include deleterious effects neurologically. Zinc in excess in vivo can cause focal neuronal pathology, while zinc deficiency can bring about mental lethargy, neuropsychiatric disorders, and reduced nerve conduction. Zinc is assimilated within the body by oral ingestion, dermal exposure, and pulmonary inhalation. Although not generally viewed as a cause of cancer, studies suggest that zinc is associated with progression of prostate malignancy. Toxic levels of zinc have been shown to induce lethargy, neurotoxicity, and gliotoxicity. High levels of zinc causes neuronal death in cortical cell tissue culture. Zinc is known to accumulate following the death of neurons in global ischemia. Therefore, zinc deficiency or excess is of significant clinical concern. Endogenous zinc is known to have important involvement within cytotoxic activity within individual cells. Zinc excess is shown to induce lethargy and focal neuronal reduction. Zinc deficiency has been shown to induce lethargy, neurosensory pathology, neuropsychiatric disorders, and reduction of nerve conduction. Oral ingestion of toxic levels of zinc will produce symptoms of dizziness and lethargy. The inhalation of zinc can bring about shaking, fatigue, and fever. Although zinc acts as a neuromodulator, endogenous zinc can be a potent and rapid neurotoxin. At 300 µM levels, zinc will extensively destroy cortical cells in tissue culture. Neurons exposed to zinc will initiate apoptosis. The activity of zinc in the human body has significant implications for normal health. Zinc in excess or deficit will cause pathological conditions which should be rapidly diagnosed by clinicians.  Further study of the biological activity of zinc is warranted.

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