The essentiality of zinc as a trace mineral in human health has been recognized for over five decades. Zinc deficiency, caused by diet, genetic defects, or diseases, can cause growth retardation, delayed sexual maturation, depressed immune response, and abnormal cognitive functions in humans. Zinc supplementation in zinc-deficient individuals can overcome or attenuate these abnormalities, suggesting zinc is an essential micro-nutrient in the body. A large number of in vitro and in vivo experimental studies indicate that zinc deficiency also causes apoptosis, cellular dysfunction, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) damage, and depressed immune response. Oxidative stress, due to the imbalance of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and detoxification in the anti-oxidant defense system of the body, along with subsequent chronic inflammation, is believed to be associated with many chronic degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, cancers, alcohol-related disease, macular degenerative disease, and neuro-pathogenesis. A large number of experimental studies including cell culture, animal, and human clinical studies have provided supportive evidence showing that zinc acts as an anti-oxidative stress agent by inhibition of oxidation of macro-molecules such as (DNA)/ribonucleic acid (RNA) and proteins as well as inhibition of inflammatory response, eventually resulting in the down-regulation of (ROS) production and the improvement of human health. In this article, we will discuss the molecular mechanisms of zinc as an anti-oxidative stress agent or mediator in the body. We will also discuss the applications of zinc supplementation as an anti-oxidative stress agent or mediator in human health and disease.
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