Present in every cell of the body, zinc is a very important nutrient required by our body for several functions. In fact, after iron, zinc is the second most abundantly found mineral in the body. However, according to estimates, around two billion people are deficient in zinc across the world. In this article, we’ll discuss all the health benefits from taking zinc.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is a trace element and this essentially means that it is required in very small quantities by the body. Nevertheless, it is a vital nutrient that is needed by over 100 enzymes for important chemical reactions in the body to keep you healthy as you age.
However, zinc is not produced naturally or stored by the body and so it must be obtained mainly through your food or health supplements.
Zinc is required by the body for several processes including:
- Synthesis of DNA
- Healing wounds
- Enzyme reactions
- Growth and development
- Protein synthesis
- Immune function
- Gene expression
Benefits From Taking Zinc
Zinc is beneficial to the body in numerous ways and aids in various processes including nerve function, metabolism, digestion, etc. The benefits of zinc include:
- Boosts Immune Function: Zinc is essential for cell signaling and immune cell function and helps to strengthen the immune system. It helps to reduce infection risk, duration of the common cold and also boosts the immune response in seniors.
- Enhances Quicker Wound Healing: Zinc plays a vital role in the inflammatory response, synthesis of collagen and immune function, which is essential for the healing of wounds and is often used to treat burns, skin injuries, ulcers, etc.
- Reduces Age-Related Diseases: Zinc can help to reduce the risk of several diseases that occur because of aging such as AMD (age-related macular degeneration), infections, pneumonia, etc. and boosting mental performance.
- Reduces Inflammation: Zinc helps to reduce the level of some proteins that cause inflammation in the body and also reduces oxidative stress that leads to chronic inflammation causing illnesses like cancer, heart disease and mental decline.
- Other Benefits: Zinc is also essential for DNA synthesis, skin health, protein production, development and functioning of immune cells, cell growth and division and proper smell and taste.
Zinc deficiency can cause impaired immune system, decreased growth and development, chronic diarrhea, slow wound healing, reduced appetite, dry skin, skin rashes, thinning hair, behavioral issues, mood disturbances, mood disturbances, fertility problems and late sexual maturity.
Foods With Zinc
As we discussed earlier, zinc can be obtained mainly via your diet and there are several foods, both animal and plant that are rich in zinc, making it easy for you to get the adequate zinc your body needs via the foods you eat.
Typically, foods like shellfish and meat contain a large amount of zinc that is absorbed by the body very easily. Plant-based foods like legumes, whole grains, etc. also contain zinc; however, these foods contain other plant compounds that reduce the absorption of zinc by the body. Some of the zinc-rich food include:
- Poultry: Chicken and turkey
- Fish: Salmon, sardines, sole and flounder
- Shellfish: Crabs, oysters, lobster, clams and mussels
- Meat: Lamb, pork, beef and bison
- Dairy Products: Milk, cheese and yogurt
- Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, etc.
- Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc.
- Vegetables: Mushrooms, peas, kale, beet greens and asparagus
- Nuts and Seeds: Cashews, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- Other Foods: Zinc-fortified snack bars, baking flours and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals
Daily Recommended Dose Of Zinc
The RDI (recommended daily intake) of zinc for adult women is 8 mg and for adult men is 11 mg. It is recommended that you get your RDI of zinc through your diet unless you suffer from a medical condition that hinders the absorption of zinc. The maximum amount of zinc per day is 40 mg; however, people having zinc deficiencies may need to take a higher dose.
Since the body does not store zinc, you must take it every day and the RDI for zinc according to age includes:
- 0 to 6 months: 2 mg
- 7 months to 3 years: 3 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 5 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 8 mg
- 14 to 18 years: Girls – 9 mg, Boys – 11 mg
- Adults: Women – 8 mg, Men – 11 mg
- Pregnant Teens/Women: Teens – 12 mg, Women – 13 mg
- Nursing Teens/Women: Teens: 13 mg, Women – 12 gm
How To Take Zinc
As mentioned earlier, it is best to get your daily quota of zinc via your food, which may be animal or plant-based foods. Often, foods are fortified with zinc, such as baking flours, breakfast cereals and snack bars.
However, if you’re unable to get the RDI of zinc through your diet, then you could consider taking a zinc or a multivitamin supplement. Zinc supplements are available both in the form of pills, as well as lozenges.
Sometimes, zinc is also added to natural cold treatments and nasal sprays. When taking zinc as a supplement, choose forms such as zinc gluconate or zinc citrate, which are more absorbable forms of zinc and avoid zinc oxide that is not absorbed very well by the body.
Side Effects Of Zinc
Zinc is essential for several body functions and to keep you healthy and zinc deficiency can cause several problems. Likewise, taking too much zinc can be harmful and can lead to many side effects. The maximum zinc intake according to age includes:
- 0 to 6 months: 4 mg
- 7 to 12 months: 5 mg
- 1 to 3 years: 7 mg
- 4 to 8 years: 12 mg
- 9 to 13 years: 23 mg
- 14 to 18 years: 34 mg
- 19+ years: 40 mg
Excessive zinc supplementation can lead to zinc toxicity that can cause symptoms including abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, loss of appetite, reduced HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) levels and reduced immune function.
Too much zinc can interfere with the absorption of other essential nutrients such as iron and copper and result in deficiencies. Consuming high doses of zinc for a long period can cause liver damage, brain disease, kidney and heart failure or even death.
Zinc can also negatively interact with certain medications such as tetracycline antibiotics or quinolone, penicillamine or thiazide diuretics. Zinc may prevent these medications from working effectively. Using zinc products such as nasal sprays can increase the risk of losing your sense of smell and sometimes even permanently.
Benefits From Taking Zinc: Wrapping Up
In conclusion, zinc is vital for many body functions, including immune function, growth and development, DNA synthesis and metabolism. The RDI of zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men and is best if you get it via your diet.
Most animal-based foods have higher levels of bioavailable zinc, but if you don’t eat meat, then you should focus on plant-based foods that are rich in protein like oats, beans, nuts, seeds, etc.
However, if you are a senior or suffer from any disease that prevents the proper absorption of zinc, then you may require to take a zinc supplement. But when using supplements, you must be careful and stick to the recommended doses, not exceeding 40 mg per day because high quantities of zinc can be toxic and have serious side effects. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements.