Zinc - Facts, Benefits and Food Sources

Overwhelming scientific evidence from all over the world confirms the importance of zinc in human nutrition. Getting enough zinc is utterly essential to good health, and it's only prudent to include both zinc and its co-factor, copper, in your daily nutritional supplements. Here are ten things everyone needs to know about zinc.

Ten Things Everyone Needs to Know About Zinc

  1. One of the best-known benefits of zinc is fighting colds. Zinc can help you get over a cold, but you need the zinc in your nose and throat, not in your bloodstream. That's why sucking on a zinc lozenge is the best way to get the zinc you need to throw of a viral infection.
  2. People who are deficient in iron are usually deficient in zinc, and people who are deficient in zinc are usually deficient in iron. That's because the phytate in whole grains, beans, and nuts blocks the absorption of minerals, especially zinc, iron, and calcium. If you are prescribed an iron supplement for anemia, you should also take zinc, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, to ensure all the minerals you need are absorbed in the amounts you need.
  3. Getting more than about 40 milligrams of zinc a day for more than two weeks can cause depletion of copper. This is because both zinc and copper are transported from the small intestine into the bloodstream by piggybacking a protein called metallothionein. If all the metallothionein is busy transporting zinc, the body can experience copper deficiency with serious consequences for the central nervous system.
  4. Zinc SymbolThe human body absorbs zinc with the help of proteins that are rich in the amino acid cysteine. If you don't get enough cysteine in your diet, your body cannot absorb zinc. (Cysteine is technically a non-essential amino acid, but low-protein diets will not provide enough of the other amino acids from which the body can make it.) Food sources of cysteine include red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, oats, wheat germ, and all foods of animal origin.
  5. Zinc oxide offers the most completion protection against the UV-A and UV-B rays of the sun of any sunblock. You have to apply to your skin, of course, not take it as a dietary supplement. If you are concerned about whitening your skin, simply apply a blush over makeup when you aren't wearing the sunblock.
  6. Fiber interferes with the absorption of zinc, copper, and calcium. If you take zinc, copper, iron or calcium supplements, don't take them at the same time you eat a high-fiber meal. Fiber-rich foods and leafy greens offer many health benefits, but they block absorption of minerals.
  7. The most common complication of zinc deficiency in childhood is diarrhea-often fatal in developing countries. The children most susceptible to zinc deficiency are those given strictly vegan diets with a limited choice of foods, all of them high in fiber.
  8. The most common complication of zinc deficiency in older adults is pneumonia. Without enough zinc, the thymus gland cannot help antibodies mature to fight lung infectons.
  9. Zinc side effects, or zinc toxicity, are caused by depletion of copper. The most common cause of zinc toxicity in the United States was the regular use of a denture adhesive known as Super Poligrip, which was only taken off the US and Japanese markets in February 2010. The denture cream contained so much zinc that some users experienced severe copper deficiency that severely damaged the central nervous system. One 57-year-old man who used the product now has to use a walker, and one 63-year-old man who used Poligrip died of copper deficiency. Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has since removed zinc from its denture adhesive products.
  10. What kind of zinc should you take? Here's a quick guide to various chemical forms of zinc and how they are best used:
  • Zinc For Colds: Zinc gluconate is the product to look for in a colds lozenge, but, generally speaking, if the lozenge leaves a bitter or metallic aftertaste, no matter what the form of zinc used, it's working for you. When you use inc lozenges, you aren't trying to increase the amount of zinc in your body. You are just trying to protect the lining of your throat and nose from the virus-so be sure to suck on the lozenge, not chew it, and don't take nutritional supplements containing zinc if you are using zinc for colds.
  • Zinc For Adults: As a nutritional supplement for adults, zinc glycinate is better absorbed than zinc picolinate, and zinc picolinate is better absorbed than zinc gluconate. As long as the supplement is not zinc oxide or zinc carbonate, however, it will be well absorbed into the bloodstream.
  • Zinc For Skin: Zinc oxide is for application to the skin. It blocks the full spectrum of skin-damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun. You'd never take a zinc oxide supplement by mouth, however.
  • Zinc For Children: Zinc sulfate is the form of zinc to look for in children's supplements. It's also the form of zinc best for men trying to boost their sperm counts or sperm motility.

How Much Zinc is Too Much?

The important thing to remember about zinc dosage is that more is not always better. Adults need only about 10 milligrams of zinc per day to prevent deficiency, although nursing mothers and pregnant women need a little more, about 14 milligrams of zinc per day. Don't take more than 60 milligrams per day unless you have a medically diagnosed zinc deficiency, and also be sure to get a daily dose of 1 to 3 milligrams of copper.

Zinc Benefits - Zinc is Not Just for Colds Anymore

Zinc has far-reaching effects in human health. Although zinc is best known as a treatment for the early stages of colds and flu, it's essential for over 300 enzymes the body uses to regulate every aspect of human physiology. Zinc is needed for healthy bones and teeth in children and adults, for male fertility, and for healthy skin.

The key roles of zinc in human health are:

  • Forming part of the copper/zinc superoxide dismutase system, which captures free radicals of oxygen and turns them into harmless hydrogen peroxide, before they can damage DNA, especially in the brain.
  • Helping cells form enzymes that "lock out" viral infections.
  • Creating the enzymes bone marrow needs to make blood cells.
  • Assisting the progress of sexual maturity in both boys and girls and giving the sperm "swimming ability" to reach the egg.
  • Helping the skin heal after wounds, and keeping the skin impervious to infection.

Some experts estimate that, worldwide, about 2 billion people suffer health problems caused by deficiencies of zinc in the diet. Adult women need at least 8 milligrams of zinc per day, adults men at least 11 milligrams. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need 14 milligrams per day, and children need 3 to 10 milligrams.

Zinc Supplements

Zinc deficiencies are more common among vegans than the rest of the population. That's because the phytates in otherwise healthy whole grains and vegetables capture zinc, iron, and calcium, binding them to the stool, and keeping them from entering the bloodstream.

Taking a nutritional supplement with at least 15 milligrams of zinc every day is the easiest way to prevent deficiency. But which kind of zinc is best?

Here are the Five Things about Zinc Every Consumer Needs to Know.

  1. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are both mineral filters, and they protect skin against both UVA and UVB radiation. Zinc oxide is superior to titanium dioxide because it also blocks the entire UV-A spectrum.
  2. Zinc and Colds. Zinc reduces the symptoms of colds and flu and shorten the duration of the cold. The trace element promotes a robust immune system that attacks and eliminates the viruses and directly inhibits the proliferation of rhinoviruses.
  3. Zinc may be beneficial for some infants and children. A study suggests that increasing the amount of zinc may have positive effects on the height and weight of the children.
  4. Zinc interferes with the absorption of other minerals. If you take zinc, be sure you also get supplemental copper and magnesium. Zinc also interferes with the absorption of iron, but you should not take supplemental iron unless a blood test shows you are iron-deficient. About 1 to 2 per cent of the population of Europe and North America has a condition called hereditary hemochromatosis, in which iron supplements can have deadly consequences.
  5. Any dosage of zinc over 100 milligrams a day can create problems if continued for more than two weeks. When it comes to zinc, more is not always better.

Syrups and sprays usually aren't the best way to use zinc. They don't protect the lining of the throat and nose from viral infections, and the zinc in liquid vitamins can oxidize the vitamins, deactivating them, if the bottle is not closed tightly after each use.

Zinc is a frequently forgotten mineral nutrient. The most important of all zinc benefits is the ability to make enzymes.

The human body uses zinc in every kind of enzyme it makes, and zinc is the second most abundant mineral in the body, after iron. Most of the zinc in the body is in the brain, bones, kidneys, and liver, with especially high concentrations in parts of the eye and in the prostate in men. One of the most important benefits of zinc for men is protection of the prostate and increased fertility.

Every gene in the human body needs zinc compounds to express itself. Zinc helps young cells develop, and it sensitizes older cells and cancerous cells to the apoptosis factors that end a cell's life cycle to allow a younger, healthier cell to take its place.

What Zinc Deficiency Cause

In terms of observable symptoms, what is zinc good for?

When people don't get zinc, deficiency symptoms can be severe. In children with severe deficiencies of zinc, the most debilitating complication is diarrhea. In older adults with severe zinc deficiency, the most serious complication is pneumonia. Both diarrhea and pneumonia are potentially fatal, and maintaining nutritional minimums of zinc can be life-saving.

But just as there are nutritional minimums for zinc, there are also nutritional maximums. And not every form of zinc works for every health application. Here are five things everyone needs to know about zinc supplements.

  1. About 1/3 of all people don't get the minimum amount of zinc from their diets, usually because they eat too many whole grains and high-fiber foods, which interfere with zinc absorption. Vegans and vegetarians are especially likely to need zinc supplements.
  2. Most zinc supplements provide the absolute minimum of zinc needed for health. Children under the age of 3 need at least 3 milligrams of zinc per day, from food and supplements. Children from ages three to eighteen generally need about 8 milligrams of zinc per day. Adult women need 8 milligrams per day, adult men need 11 milligrams per day, and pregnant women and nursing mothers need 14 milligrams per day-at a minimum.
  3. Taking more than 40 milligrams of zinc a day can cause problems with the skin, immune system, and central nervous system. It's OK to get up to about 60 milligrams of zinc a day, for up to two weeks, while you are fighting a cold. It's never a good idea to take more than 100 milligrams a day unless you have a medically diagnosed zinc deficiency.
  4. The best form of zinc for fighting a cold is a lozenge that you suck rather than chew. Slow release of zinc keeps the colds virus from invading the tissues lining your nose and throat. You don't want to raise zinc levels for your whole body-just your upper respiratory tract.
  5. The more you need zinc, the less objectionable it tastes.
  6. If you take a zinc supplement and it has not aftertaste, you probably needed it. If you take a zinc supplement and it tastes bad (bitter or metallic), you probably didn't. The more you need zinc, the less objectionable it tastes. Your tongue is a good guide to whether you need to take more zinc.

More people have zinc deficiencies than suffer zinc toxicity symptoms, but both deficiency and excess can cause serious health problems. To prevent zinc toxicity, be sure that you also get 1 to 3 milligrams of copper every day from your nutritional supplements.

The Benefits Of Zinc Supplements

Natural Health Beauty In order to fully understand the benefits of zinc supplements, it is important to fully understand the role of zinc in the body.

Zinc is an essential nutrient, and is a very important mineral that is involved in a wide range of metabolic activities.

It is required in the healing of injuries, and is necessary for growth and development, hair growth, insulin production, immunity, smell, taste, and fertility. Zinc is also extremely important during pregnancy to ensure proper growth and development of the foetus.

As you can see the importance of this mineral cannot be overstated, and the benefits of zinc supplements are equally important for those who may be lacking in this mineral.

Supplementing Zinc

Zinc can help promote healing in the body, and can be used to fight cold and flu symptoms. Supplementing zinc when you have a cold or the flu can lead to a speedier recovery. This is also known to happen with sore throats and skin injuries. Zinc helps strengthen the immune system which as we know is our body's key defence against infection and disease. Scientists are continuously carrying out research into further benefits of zinc supplements.

Supplemental Sources

Zinc supplements come in many different types and forms, such as tablets, liquid, capsules, and zinc lozenges. Zinc chelate is one of the most effective and absorbable zinc supplements. Research has shown that zinc absorption is improved greatly if it is taken as a lozenge and dissolved in the mouth. When taking zinc in supplements, it is best taken before bed as it should be taken away from food and should be taken at least 8 hours after iron.

Healthy Pregnant

It is recommended to use 50mg per day during pregnancy which should be taken separately from iron. Up to 200mg of zinc per day is quite safe but if a zinc supplement is to be used for long periods a dosage of 20mg per day is recommended.

Most multivitamins contain the recommended daily allowance of zinc.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Zinc supplement over long term usage can interfere with the absorption and utilisation of other nutrients, such as iron and copper. Excess zinc supplement misuse can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Zinc supplement misuse can also cause a lowering of the level of HDL or good cholesterol. It can also lead to poor immune system function.

The Benefits Far Out Weight The Side Effects

As you can see the benefits of zinc supplements far out weight the side effects if any that are experienced. If zinc is taken correctly it can greatly benefit our bodies.

Natural Food Sources Of Zinc Mineral

Zinc is one of the most important minerals used by the body for various functions and fortunately, there is a wide variety of zinc food sources available naturally for you to take advantage of. To give you an idea just how important it is, zinc helps in the production of about 100 enzymes in your body, builds you a healthy immune system, maintains your senses of smell and taste and is needed for DNA synthesis


Foods Containing Zinc

And what about zinc-rich foods? The best foods for getting your zinc are red meats, especially beef, lamb, and liver, and, ironically, the same plant foods that contain the phytates that interfere with the absorption of zinc, such as nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Corn is a good source of zinc if it has been stone-ground, although most other milling processes do not break the fibers that otherwise keep the zinc from being absorbed.

Zinc is very much associated with protein foods. Thus, you may assume that most foods high in zinc are protein-rich as well. The best sources of zinc include beef, lamb, pork, crabmeat, turkey, chicken, lobster, clams and salmon.

Zinc For Vegetarians

If you are a vegetarian, you will most probably intake less zinc that those who have meat-based diets. Good high zinc foods aside from meats are dairy products such as milk and cheese, yeast, peanuts, beans, and wholegrain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat bread, potato and yogurt. Of all these vegetarian zinc foods, pumpkin seeds offer one of the most concentrated non-meat food sources of zinc.

Zinc can be found in many of today's foods, and a good source of zinc is oysters, meat, liver, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, whole grains, almonds, and milk. Zinc deficiency is very common in vegetarian diets, and this is mainly due to phytates which are organic acids found in the high grain content of vegetarian diets. These phytates bind zinc and render it inabsorbable. It is therefore recommended that vegetarians should use a zinc supplement.

Foods With Zinc Unit Serving Size Content
Oysters mg 6 medium 76.7
Beef shanks, cooked mg 3 ounces 8.9
Crab, Alaska king, cooked mg 3 ounces 6.5
Pork shoulder, cooked mg 3 ounces 4.2
Breakfast cereal fortified with 25% of the DV for zinc mg 3/4 cup serving 3.8
Chicken leg, roasted mg 1 leg 2.7
Pork tenderloin, cooked mg 3 ounces 2.5
Lobster, cooked mg 3 ounces 2.5
Baked beans, canned mg 1/2 cup 1.7
Cashews, dry roasted mg 1 ounce 1.6
Yogurt, fruit, low fat mg 1 cup 1.6
Raisin bran mg 3/4 cup 1.3
Chickpeas mg 1/2 cup 1.3
Cheese, Swiss mg 1 ounce 1.1
Almonds, dry roasted mg 1 ounce 1.0
Milk mg 1 cup 0.9
Chicken breast, roasted, 1/2 breast with skin removed mg 1/2 breast with skin removed 0.9
Cheese, cheddar or mozzarella mg 1 ounce 0.9
Kidney beans, cooked mg 1/2 cup 0.8
Peas, boiled mg 1/2 cup 0.8
Oatmeal, instant mg 1 packet 0.8
Flounder or sole, cooked mg 3 ounces 0.5

Many foods contain some amounts of zinc, but to be considered a good zinc source, the food must contain a substantial amount of the mineral relative to the calorie content. It should also contribute at least about 10% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance in one standard serving size.

Recommended Dietary Allowances for Zinc

For adults, the RDA for zinc should be about 11 milligrams per day for adult men and 8 milligrams for women. If you are lactating or pregnant, you need to put in about 3 mg more. For children, about 5 mg is needed for 4-8 year olds, and 8 mg for 9-13 year olds, while infants need only about 3 mg.

The Truth about Zinc in Nutrition

The downside of taking these high zinc foods is that no matter how much of them you take in, only a mere 15%-40% of the zinc actually gets absorbed by your body overall. This is especially true for non-meat sources of zinc. Dietary fibers and phytic acid in bran prevents the absorption of zinc in your body.

Phytic acid forms a complex with the zinc that you take in, and this compound is insoluble so that it cannot be absorbed readily by your body. Whole grains are a better source of zinc than refined grains as they have the ability to produce enzymes that can destroy phytic acid. On the other hand, the zinc you get from eating meat is four times more bio-available than in grain foods.

It has been found that increasing intake of vitamins such as Vitamin C, E and B6 and minerals such as magnesium can increase zinc absorption in the body. So, it will be a good idea to add these to your daily vitamin and mineral intake.

Risks in Taking Too Much Zinc

If you are healthy and you eat a well-balance diet, you will rarely need supplements to complete your body's zinc needs. You should be careful in taking zinc supplements because too much of zinc can be potentially harmful to your body. It has been reported that intake of more than 50 milligrams of zinc (both from diet and from supplements) can lead to improper copper metabolism, altered iron function, reduction of HDL's (good cholesterol) and reduced immune function.

Zinc is very important to your body and you should make sure that you have enough zinc intake to complete your dietary needs. However, as always, taking too much can lead to harsh consequences, so make sure that you only take what is needed.

More Zinc Related Articles

Zinc and Weight Loss - There is a very important relationship between zinc and weight loss, and knowing about it may literally save your life. Zinc won't help you lose weight, but losing weight by gastric bypass or gastric lap band surgery may make you dangerously deficient in zinc.

Zinc Gluconate - Zinc gluconate is an especially well-absorbed form of zinc for use in supplements. It is not, however, the best kind of zinc for every application.

Zinc for Acne - Taking zinc as supplement is an effective home remedy for acne. Does this idea sound new to you? Read on and be surprised about the effectivity of zinc for acne treatment.

Zinc Oxide - Zinc oxide is a product for use on you, not in you. Here is everything consumers need to know about the form of zinc used for skin protection.

Zinc and Hair Loss - If you are suffering from hair loss for no apparent reason, it may be caused by poor nutrition and diet. More so, it may be caused by a lack of zinc in your diet. Read this article and find out more about zinc and hair loss.

Zinc and Vitamin C - Millions of people take zinc for preventing colds. Millions more take vitamin C. But taking both zinc and vitamin C is the best natural remedy for stopping colds before they start.

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms - Zinc deficiency is more common than previously thought and this condition can lead to unwanted symptoms. The symptoms of zinc deficiency are most likely to show up in adults after trying too hard to lose weight by dieting. But symptoms in children are much more serious.

Zinc Lozenges - There is no sure-fire cure for the common cold, but taking zinc for colds may be the next best thing.

Zinc Side Effects - Before taking zinc supplements, you should be wary of some risks you are subjecting yourself to. Read and find out about the side effects of taking too much zinc.

Zinc Sulfate - Zinc gluconate is often advertised as the form of zinc the body absorbs best, and products made with zinc gluconate often cost more. But is the less expensive zinc sulfate just as good?

Written By Robert S. Rister
Robert Rister is the author of Healing without Medication and many other books that have been translated into eight languages. He is a chemist, a formulator of natural products, and a writer of consumer guides to getting the greatest value from natural health care.

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