Zinc

Zinc, a trace element, is a nourishing substance that fills many important functions in our body.

Our body does not produce zinc naturally, which is why we must add it through food or dietary supplements.

This article explains all recommended information about zinc, including uses, health benefits, dosage recommendations and possible side effects.

Trace elements are minerals found in living tissue in small amounts. Some are known to be essential in terms of nutrition, others may be essential and the remainder are considered non-essential. Trace elements function mainly as catalysts in enzymatic processes; iron and copper for example, participate in oxidation-reduction reactions in energy metabolism. Iron, as a component of hemoglobin and myoglobin, plays a vital role in transporting oxygen.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is needed for several important processes in our body:

  • Genetic processes
  • Enzymatic reactions
  • Efficient functioning of the immune system
  • Protein synthesis
  • DNA synthesis
  • To heal sores
  • Growth and development
 

Zinc is found naturally in a wide range of both plant and animal foods and also functions as an antioxidant. It plays an important role in the metabolism of nucleic acids, cell duplication, tissue repair and growth. Zinc also has known and important interactions at the biological level with hormones, and it plays a role in the production, storage and secretion of individual hormones. The richest sources of zinc are shellfish (especially oysters), beef and other red meats. Poultry, eggs, hard cheeses, milk, yogurt, legumes, nuts and whole-grain cereals are also good sources. Many dietary factors, including minerals, phytates and other dietary fibers, may have a negative effect on zinc absorption.

Since 1960 people have obtained about 70% of food-supply zinc from animal foods. Zinc from animal sources appears to be better absorbed than that from plant sources.

Processed foods that do not naturally contain zinc, such as breakfast cereals, snack bars and flour, are usually enriched with synthetic zinc. Due to its role in immune function, zinc is also added to nasal sprays, lozenges and other cold remedies.

Zinc, Its Role in our Body

Zinc is a vital mineral that your body uses in countless ways.

It is needed for the function of more than 300 enzymes that help in metabolism, digestion, nerve function and many other processes, and is also critical for development and for the function of immune cells.

In addition, zinc is essential for skin health and supports body growth and development due to its role in cell growth and division.

Zinc is also needed for our sense of taste and smell because one of the enzymes vital for proper taste and smell depends on it. Zinc deficiency can reduce the ability to distinguish tastes or smells.

קולגן וחומצה היאלורונית המלצות

תזונה בריאה, שגרת אימונים ושימוש במוצרים שאינם רעילים עשויים לעזור מאוד בשגרת הטיפוח והטיפול האישיים. לפעמים, נטילת תוספים נוספים בצורת כמוסות או אבקה יכולה להעצים את התהליך אף יותר. קולגן וחומצה היאלורונית הם שני מוצרים שנתפסים כיעילים לבריאות וגמישות העור, השיער, הציפורניים ומניעת השפעות ההזדקנות.
אולם, ככל שאנו מתבגרים, קולגן מתפרק ונעלם מגופנו מה שגורם ליצירת קמטים, עור יבש, שיער שביר ולמפרקים כואבים. לפיכך, רבים מאמינים כי הוספת קולגן לגוף יכולה לשפר את בריאות העור והשיער, להפחית כאבי מפרקים וניוון, להגביר את חילוף החומרים ואת תפוקת האנרגיה למסת השריר, לחזק את השיער, הציפורניים והשיניים ועוד.

Zinc, Health Benefits

Studies show that zinc has many health benefits:

Strengthens the immune system and keeps it functioning at its best.

As it is needed for immune cell function, deficiency may cause a weakened immune response. Zinc supplements stimulate certain immune cells and reduce oxidative stress. For example, a survey of seven studies showed that daily consumption of 80-92 mg zinc may reduce the duration of the common cold by up to 33%. Zinc supplements have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of infection and to promote immune response in the elderly population.

Accelerates Healing of Sores

Zinc is commonly used in hospitals to treat burns, certain ulcers and other skin injuries.

As this mineral plays critical roles in collagen synthesis, immune function and inflammatory response, it is required for proper healing. In fact, our skin holds a relatively high amount – about 5% – of our body’s zinc content. While zinc deficiency can slow healing of sores, zinc supplementation can accelerate recovery among people with significant sores.

May reduce the risk of certain age-related diseases  

Zinc may significantly reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as pneumonia, infection and age-related macular degeneration. Zinc may relieve oxidative stress and improve immune response by increasing the activity of T-cells and natural killer (NK) cells that help protect our body from infection. Older people that supplement with zinc experience influenza vaccination response and reduce the risk of pneumonia. In fact one study determined that 45 mg a day of zinc may reduce infection rates among adults by almost 66%.  

May Help Treat Acne

Acne is a common skin disease that is estimated to affect up to 9.4% of the world population and is driven by blockage of oil-producing glands, bacteria and inflammation. Studies suggest that oral and topical zinc treatment may effectively treat acne by reducing inflammation, inhibiting the growth of P. acnes bacteria and suppressing oil gland activity. It was found that people with acne tend to have lower zinc levels. Therefore, supplements may help reduce symptoms.

Decreases Inflammation

Zinc decreases oxidative stress and reduces the levels of certain inflammatory proteins in our body. Oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation and “contributes” to a wide variety of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and mental stress. A study conducted among adults in their 40’s found that those who took 45 mg of zinc a day experienced greater reductions in inflammatory markers compared to the placebo group.

Helps Stop Diarrhea among Infants

A popular treatment for colds. Some studies found that zinc lozenges may reduce the duration of a cold and may reduce upper respiratory infections in children.

To Treat Diaper Rash and Skin Irritations.

Zinc, Deficiency Symptoms

Although severe zinc deficiency is rare, it may occur among people with rare genetic mutations, breastfed infants whose mothers do not have enough zinc, persons with alcohol addiction and anyone taking certain immune-suppressing medications. Symptoms of severe zinc deficiency include impaired growth and development, delayed sexual maturity, skin rashes, chronic diarrhea, impaired sore healing and behavioral problems.

Milder forms of zinc deficiency are more common, particularly among children in developing countries where the common diet often lacks important nutrients.

Population groups at risk of zinc deficiency:

Persons with gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease

Vegetarians and vegans

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

Older infants who are only breastfed

Persons with sickle cell anemia

Persons suffering from malnutrition, including those with anorexia or bulimia

Persons with chronic kidney disease

Alcoholics

Symptoms of mild zinc deficiency include diarrhea, reduced functioning of the immune system, thinning hair, decreased appetite, mood disorders, dry skin, fertility problems and impaired healing of sores.

 

It is difficult to detect zinc deficiency in laboratory tests, and therefore you may still be deficient even if tests indicate proper levels. Doctors consider other risk factors – such as poor dietary intake and genetics – alongside blood test results, when determining whether the patient needs supplements.

Zinc, Dietary Sources

Many animal and plant sources are naturally rich in zinc, which makes it easier for most people to consume adequate amounts.

Foods highest in zinc include:

Shellfish: oysters, crabs, mussels, lobster and clams

Meat: beef, pork, lamb and bison

Poultry

Fish

Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, etc.

Nuts and seeds: pumpkin seeds, cashew, hemp seeds, etc.

Dairy products: milk, yogurt and cheese

Eggs

Whole grains: oats, quinoa, brown rice, etc.

Certain vegetables: mushrooms, cabbage, peas, asparagus and beet greens

Animal products such as meat and shellfish contain high amounts of zinc that our body absorbs easily.

It is important to remember that zinc found in plant sources such as legumes and whole grains is absorbed less efficiently because other plant compounds inhibit absorption.

Zinc, Excessive Intake

Just as zinc deficiency can cause health complications, excessive intake can cause negative side effects. The most common cause of zinc toxicity is excessive supplemental zinc which may cause both acute and chronic symptoms.

Symptoms of toxicity include:

Nausea

Vomiting

Loss of appetite

Diarrhea

Abdominal cramps

Headaches

Reduced immune function

Decreased levels of good, HDL, cholesterol

Excessive zinc supplementation may cause deficiencies in other nutrients and, for example, interfere with the absorption of copper and iron.

Zinc, Recommended Dosages

To avoid excess consumption it is recommended to avoid high-dose zinc supplements unless recommended by a doctor. Recommended daily intake (RDI) is 11 mg for adult men and 8 mg for adult women. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consume 11 and 12 mg a day, respectively. The tolerable upper level for a zinc supplement is 40 mg per day. This does not include people with zinc deficiency, who may need to take higher-dosage zinc supplements. If you take dietary supplements choose absorbable forms such as zinc citrate or zinc gluconate, and stay away from zinc oxide that is absorbed less efficiently.