Zinc is a vital nutrient that has many important roles in your body. This article explains the benefits of zinc as well symptoms of zinc deficiency, potential side effects of too much zinc, and dosage recommendations.
Zinc is an essential nutrient, meaning your body can't produce it and therefore, must be obtained through diet. It is the second-most abundant trace mineral (after iron) and is present in every single cell. Zinc is needed for the activity of over 300 enzymes that assist in metabolism, digestion, nerve function as well as many other processes.
Fortunately, zinc can be found in a wide variety of both animal and plant foods like salmon, eggs, and spinach. Zinc is required for a number of processes within your body, including:
There are many health benefits of zinc ranging from accelerating wound healing to decreased inflammation.
Zinc along with vitamin C are probably most well-known for strengthening the immune system. In fact, because zinc is needed for immune system function and cell signaling, a deficiency in zinc can lead to a weakened immune response.
For example, an analysis of seven different studies found that 80-92 mg of zinc per day can reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33%. Zinc supplements stimulate certain immune cells and reduce oxidative stress.
Because zinc plays a critical role in collagen synthesis and inflammatory response it is often used in hospitals as a therapeutic for burns, ulcers, and other common skin injures and ailments. In fact, your skin holds around 5% of your body's total zinc content.
Just as zinc deficiency can slow the wound healing process, supplementing with this mineral can speed up recovery. For example, a 12-week study that included 60 individuals with diabetic foot ulcers found that those who were treated with 200 mg of zinc per day experienced significant reductions in ulcer size compared to the placebo group.
Acne, driven by obstruction of oil-producing glands, bacteria and inflammation, is estimated to affect up to 9.4% of the global population. Research suggests that both oral and topical zinc treatments can effectively treat acne in a variety of ways. This includes:
Individuals with acne usually tend to have lower levels of zinc and therefore, zinc supplements may be beneficial.
Zinc can significantly reduce your risk of developing age-related diseases like infection(s), macular degeneration, and pneumonia. Studies suggest that zinc may relieve oxidative stress and improve immune response by boosting the activity of natural killer cells and T-cells which help protect your body from infection.
A large study with over 4,200 participants found that taking daily antioxidant supplements—vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin E—plus 80 mg of zinc decreased vision loss and also significantly reduced the risk of advanced macular degeneration. Furthermore, adults who supplemented with zinc experienced improved influenza vaccination response, reduced risk of pneumonia and boosted mental performance.
Oxidative stress can damage cells and occurs when there is an excess of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms. Zinc decreases oxidative stress and reduces inflammation throughout the body.
Oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation which is a contributing factor to conditions and chronic illnesses like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
A study with 40 older adults found that those who took 45 mg of zinc per day experienced greater reduction in inflammatory markers than the placebo group.
A 2015 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism found that taking zinc supplements aided in a healthy heart. This includes lowering total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad"), and triglycerides. Furthermore, a subsequent study published in Nutrition Research and Practice found that a higher intake of zinc was associated with lower systolic blood pressure readings among a group of 40 obese women.
Severe zinc deficiency is not likely, however, it can occur in people with rare genetic mutations. This includes individuals with alcohol addictions, breasting infants whose mothers don't consume enough zinc, and anyone taking suppressing medications.
Milder forms of zinc deficiency can be quite common in children in developing countries who, because of their diets often lack important nutrients. In fact, it is estimated that over 2 billion people worldwide are deficient in zinc due to inadequate dietary intake. Those at a risk of zinc deficiency include:
The symptoms of zinc deficiency can include diarrhea, decreased immunity, thinning hair, dry skin, mood disturbances, and impaired wound healing.
It is difficult to detect zinc deficiency using standard laboratory tests because your body's tight control over zinc levels. Meaning, even if your tests indicate normal levels of zinc you can still be deficient. Nonetheless, doctors may consider other risk factors like poor diet and genetics alongside blood results when determining if you need supplements.
Similar to how deficiency in zinc can cause health complications so to can too much zinc. The most common cause of "zinc toxicity" is due to supplementing with zinc in excessive amounts. Side effects of zinc can include:
The recommended dietary intake (RDI) of zinc is 11 mg for adult men and 8 mg for adult women. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need to consume a little more in the range of 11-12 mg per day.
The upper level of zinc dosage is 40 mg per day. Those with zinc deficiencies, however, may need to take higher-dose supplements.
Zinc is a vital nutrient that has many important roles in your body. It is the second-most abundant trace mineral (after iron) and is present in every single cell. Zinc is needed for the activity of over 300 enzymes that assist in metabolism, digestion, nerve function as well as many other processes.
Zinc can be found in a wide variety of both animal and plant foods like salmon, eggs, and spinach. Zinc is required for a number of processes within your body, including:
The symptoms of zinc deficiency can include diarrhea, decreased immunity, thinning hair, dry skin, mood disturbances, and impaired wound healing. Just as deficiency in zinc can cause health complications so to can too much zinc. The most common cause of "zinc toxicity" is due to supplementing with zinc in excessive amounts. Side effects can include:
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