Zinc: Definition,Benefits, Deficiency, Food Sources, and Side Effects

Zinc is a nutrient that is essential to several bodily processes.

Zinc cannot be produced by your body, therefore you must consume it or take supplements to get it.

Everything you need to know about zinc, including its uses, health advantages, dose suggestions, and possible side effects, is covered in this article.

Zinc: Everything You Need to Know 2022
Zinc: Everything You Need to Know 2022

What Is Zinc?

Zinc is a nutrient that your body cannot produce or store, making it vital.

You must thus have a consistent supply of your food.

 Zinc is necessary for a number of bodily functions, such as :


  • Gene expression
  • Enzymatic reactions
  • Immune function
  • Protein synthesis 
  • DNA synthesis
  • Wound healing
  • Growth and development

Foods that do not naturally contain this element, such as breakfast cereals, energy bars, and baking flour, are routinely fortified with synthetic zinc.

You can also take zinc supplements or multi-nutrient tablets including zinc.

Zinc is also used in several nasal sprays, lozenges, and other natural cold remedies due to its involvement in immunological function.

Role in Your Body

Your body utilizes zinc, a crucial element, in a variety of ways.

In fact, every cell in your body contains zinc, which is the second-most prevalent trace mineral after iron.

Over 300 enzymes that help with metabolism, digestion, nerve function, and many other activities all require zinc to operate.

It is also required for the formation and function of immune cells.

It is also necessary for maintaining healthy skin, protein production, and DNA synthesis.

Furthermore, zinc is required for cell development and division, which impacts how the body grows and develops.

Zinc also influences your sense of taste and smell. A lack of zinc may affect your sense of taste or smell since one of the enzymes required for proper taste and smell is zinc-dependent.

Health Benefits

According to research, zinc provides several health advantages.

Boosts Your Immune System


A healthy immune system may be maintained with zinc.

It is essential for immune cell function and cell communication, therefore a lack of it might result in a weakened immunological response.

Zinc supplements strengthen the immune system and reduce oxidative stress.

A study of seven trials, for example, found that taking 80-92 mg of zinc per day might cut the duration of the common cold by up to 33%.

Furthermore, zinc supplements minimize the risk of illness and boost the immune system in older persons.


Accelerates Wound Healing


In hospitals, zinc is often used to treat burns, ulcers, and other skin ailments.

This mineral is required for optimal healing because it plays an important role in collagen formation, immunological function, and inflammatory response.

In reality, your skin has a pretty high percentage of your body’s zinc concentration (around 5%).

While a zinc shortage can impair wound healing, supplementing with zinc can help patients with wounds recover faster.

In a 12-week trial of 60 persons with diabetic foot ulcers, those given 200 mg of zinc per day saw substantial decreases in lesion size when compared to a placebo group.

May Reduce the Risk of Certain Age-Related Diseases


Your chances of age-related illnesses including pneumonia, infection, and age-related macular degeneration may be considerably decreased by zinc (AMD).

By increasing the activity of T-cells and natural killer cells, which help defend your body from infection, zinc may reduce oxidative stress and enhance the immunological response.

Zinc supplements for older persons increase influenza vaccine response, lower the risk of pneumonia, and improve cognitive function.

For example, one research found that taking 45 mg of elemental zinc daily might reduce infections in older people by about 66%.

Additionally, taking daily antioxidant supplements of vitamin E, vitamin C, and beta-carotene together with 80 mg of zinc prevented vision loss and greatly lowered the chance of advanced AMD in major research including over 4,200 participants.


May Help Treat Acne


Up to 9.4% of the world’s population is thought to be affected by the prevalent skin condition acne.

Inflammation, bacteria, and blockage of oil glands are the causes of acne.

According to studies, the use of topical and oral zinc medications can successfully cure acne by lowering inflammation, thwarting the growth of the P. acnes bacterium, and decreasing the activity of the oil glands.

Zinc levels are often decreased in acne sufferers. As a result, vitamins could aid with symptom reduction.


Decreases Inflammation


Zinc lowers levels of several inflammatory proteins in your body and minimizes oxidative damage.

Chronic inflammation brought on by oxidative stress contributes to a variety of chronic conditions, including cancer, heart disease, and mental deterioration.

In a study of 40 older persons, those taking 45 mg of zinc daily had lower levels of inflammatory markers than those taking a placebo.

Deficiency Symptoms

Even though severe zinc shortage is uncommon, it can happen to persons with specific immune-suppressing drugs, people with alcohol addictions, nursing infants whose moms don’t have enough zinc, and people with unusual genetic defects.

Reduced growth and development, delayed sexual maturity, skin rashes, persistent diarrhea, impaired wound healing, and behavioral problems are all signs of severe zinc deficiency.

Milder types of zinc insufficiency are more prevalent, particularly in children in underdeveloped nations where critical minerals are frequently missing from meals.

Approximately 2 billion individuals worldwide are thought to be zinc deficient as a result of insufficient dietary consumption.

It is believed that over 450,000 children under the age of five die each year from zinc deficiency because it weakens the immune system and raises the risk of infection:

  1. People who are susceptible to zinc deficiency include:
  2. People with gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease
  3. Vegetarians and vegans
  4. Pregnant and breastfeeding women
  5. Older infants who are exclusively breastfed
  6. People with sickle cell anemia
  7. Malnourished people, especially those who have anorexia or bulimia
  8. People with chronic kidney disease
  9. Those who abuse alcohol

Diarrhea, lowered immunity, thinning hair, decreased appetite, mood swings, dry skin, problems getting pregnant, and poor wound healing are all signs of moderate zinc insufficiency.

Due to your body’s strict regulation of zinc levels, zinc insufficiency is difficult to identify with laboratory testing. Therefore, even if testing shows normal levels, you might still be inadequate.

When deciding whether you require supplements, doctors often take into account other risk factors, such as bad eating habits and heredity, in addition to blood test results.

Food Sources

Since many meals from animals and plants are naturally high in zinc, it is simple for most individuals to get enough of it.

The foods with the most zinc are:

  • Oysters, crab, mussels, lobster, and clams are examples of shellfish.
  • Meats include beef, hog, lamb, and bison.
  • Turkey and chicken are both poultry.
  • Flounder, sardines, salmon, and sole are among the fish available.
  • Chickpeas, lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and other legumes.
  • Pumpkin seeds, cashews, hemp seeds, and other nuts and seeds.
  • Dairy items include milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Eggs.
  • Whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and others.
  • Mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus, and beet greens are examples of vegetables.

High concentrations of zinc are present in animal products like meat and shellfish in a form that is simple for your body to absorb.

Remember that other plant components that restrict absorption allow zinc contained in plant-based sources like legumes and whole grains to be absorbed less effectively.

While many meals naturally contain a lot of zinc, other goods, such as ready-to-eat morning cereals, snack bars, and baking flours, have zinc added to increase their zinc content.

Toxicity and Dosage Recommendations

Just as a zinc deficit may lead to health problems, an overabundance of zinc can have the same impact.

Too much supplementary zinc is the most prevalent cause of zinc poisoning, which can result in both acute and chronic symptoms.

Toxic symptoms include:

  •  Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headaches
  • Reduced immune function
  • Decreased “good” HDL cholesterol levels

Excessive zinc consumption might result in nutritional deficits.

Chronically high zinc intake, for example, can interfere with copper and iron absorption.

Copper levels have even been shown to be reduced in persons who consumed only moderately high quantities of zinc — 60 mg per day — for 10 weeks.

Recommended Dosages

To avoid overconsumption, avoid high-dose zinc supplements unless prescribed by a specialist.

The recommended daily intake (RDI) for adult males is 11 mg and 8 mg for adult women.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should ingest 11 and 12 mg per day, respectively.

Unless a medical condition prevents absorption, you should be able to meet the RDI for zinc through food alone.

The maximal limit for zinc is 40 milligrams per day. This does not apply to persons who are zinc deficient and may require high-dose supplementation.

Choose absorbable forms of zinc, such as zinc citrate or zinc gluconate, if you take supplements. Avoid zinc oxide, which is poorly absorbed.

The Bottom Line

Zinc is required for DNA synthesis, immunity, metabolism, and growth.

It may lower inflammation and your chances of developing certain age-related disorders.

Most individuals get their RDI of 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women from their food, however, older people and persons with disorders that impede zinc absorption may need to supplement.

Because high-dose zinc supplements can create hazardous side effects, it’s critical to follow directions and use supplements only when necessary.

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