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Zinc plays an integral role in supporting the immune system and proper growth and development. Research has recognized over 300 catalytically active Zinc metalloproteins and more than 2000 Zinc-dependent transcription factors involved in the gene expression of various proteins (1). Because the body does not produce Zinc naturally on its own, it is important to make sure you are getting the appropriate amount from food sources or through zinc supplementation.
This post will introduce Zinc, what it is, why your body needs it, and how to make sure you are getting the right dose into your diet every day.
What Is Zinc?
Zinc is an important micronutrient that helps maintain optimal health and well-being. This trace mineral is necessary for the immune system to function correctly. Zinc is involved in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, breakdown of carbohydrates, enhancing action insulin, and it is necessary for the sense of smell and taste (2). In fact, Zinc is the second-most-abundant trace mineral in your body after Iron (3). It operates in every cell and is a key nutrient in the body’s ability to make proteins and DNA.
Why Your Body Needs It
Because the body has no specialist Zinc storage system, a daily intake of Zinc is needed to maintain a steady state (2). Zinc is crucial for the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, and nerve function – just to name a few. It is also critical for proper immune system function, skin health, DNA synthesis, and protein production.
This chemical element also plays a role in cell growth and division and is vital for the senses of taste and smell. If you are not getting an adequate amount of Zinc through food, the lack thereof could eventually lead to Zinc deficiency.
Conservative estimates suggest that 25% of the world's population is at risk of zinc deficiency (4).
Symptoms of Zinc deficiency include (5):
Potential Benefits of Zinc
In a future post, we will share recent published research that support the different benefits connected to the appropriate intake of Zinc.
Some of the purported health benefits and uses of Zinc include*:
- Boosts the immune system
- Accelerates wound healing
- May reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as pneumonia, infection, and macular degeneration
- Improve skin health and acne
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Help alleviate symptoms of Zinc deficiency
- Resolves chronic diarrhea or loose stools
- Improves thyroid function
- Helps fight viruses
- Encourages quicker recovery from colds and other illnesses
- Treatment for Wilson disease
- May improve male fertility
Food Sources High in Zinc
Ten food sources high in Zinc include:
- Nuts & Seeds
- Dark Chocolate
- Greek Yogurt
- Whole Grain Cereals
Meat is one of the food sources with the highest levels of Zinc. Anyone eating a plant-based diet may require additional Zinc supplementation as the Zinc available in plant-based foods is more difficult for the body to absorb.
Types Of Zinc Supplements
Zinc comes in many forms. As mentioned before, you can get naturally occurring Zinc from the foods you eat daily, however, it may not be enough.
Supplemental Zinc comes in several forms including capsules, tablets, creams, ointments, and liquid ionic Zinc tinctures.
Why Liquid Zinc Is Superior
Ultimately, liquid ionic Zinc is the most readily bioavailable form on the market. This means it is the easiest for your body to absorb. It also is broken down more quickly and effectively than the other forms. For the best results, consider consuming a Zinc ionophore like Turmeric or Quercetin alongside your Zinc supplement as this can boost its cellular action.
You can find liquid ionic zinc supplements online or at your local health foods store.
Recommended Daily Dosage of Zinc
According to The National Library of Medicine, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is the average daily level of intake that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97 to 98%) healthy people. The adequate intake (AI) is the level established when there is not enough scientific research evidence to develop an RDA (5).
The following is the case for Zinc:
0 to 6 months: 2 mg/day
7 to 12 months: 3 mg/day
7 to 12 months: 3 mg/day
1 to 3 years: 3 mg/day
4 to 8 years: 5 mg/day
9 to 13 years: 8 mg/day
Supplementation Dose: 5 to 20 mg/day (6)
Adolescents and Adults (RDA)
Males, ages 14 and over: 11 mg/day
Females, ages 14 to 18: 9 mg/day
Females, ages 19 and over: 8 mg/day
Pregnant females, 19 years of age and over: 11 mg/day
Lactating females, 19 years of age and over: 12 mg/day
Zinc taken in large amounts may cause zinc toxicity. Symptoms occur within 2 to 10 hours of swallowing the supplement. Although zinc is considered relatively nontoxic, an extremely high intake of zinc can manifest with symptoms including nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, lethargy, and fatigue (7).
Adults interested in using Zinc supplements should be careful not to exceed 40 mg per day. Too much Zinc can cause Zinc toxicity and the aforementioned symptoms.
As always, make sure to consult with a Physician before beginning any new supplement, including Zinc.
A Quick Summary
Zinc is an essential mineral for overall health. It is vital to the activity of over 300 enzymes that aid in metabolism, digestion, and nerve function, critical for immune system function, skin health, DNA synthesis, protein production, and cell growth and cell division.
The body does not produce or store Zinc on its own. While it can be absorbed through high Zinc foods, diet is sometimes not enough. Zinc supplements can ensure adequate daily intake of this important element while improving overall health, boosting immunity, and preventing against various diseases.
Do not exceed the recommended daily dosage (40 mg) per day. If you experience symptoms of Zinc toxicity, cease taking Zinc immediately until symptoms disappear.
Please speak with your doctor or other licensed healthcare professional before beginning any new supplement including Zinc. None of the content on this site is or should be considered medical advice. The purpose of this article is simply to highlight relevant research for those curious about the potential benefits of consuming Zinc.