Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is a component of more than 100 enzymes and is found in every single cell in our body that helps us to have optimal health and proper bodily functions. Next to iron, it is the second most abundant trace mineral in the body.
It is stored primarily in our muscles and high concentrations of it are also found in our retina, red and white blood cells. It can also be found in our bones, skin, pancreas, liver and kidney. While in men, their prostate gland contains more zinc compared to the other organs in their body.
One of the trace minerals that is important in keeping our immune system strong in order to help fight off infections and viruses. Moreover, it helps our senses work properly especially our sense of smell and taste. Read and discover the other health benefits that zinc can do for you.
Origin and History
Zinc was already used since ancient times before it was officially discovered as an element in the year 1746 by German chemist Andreas Marggraf in Berlin where he heated a mixture of carbon and calamine in a closed vessel without copper to isolate the metal.
It is believed that German alchemist Paracelsus had given the name Zinc during the medieval period where he derived from the German word "zinke" which means pointed or tooth-like. The mineral was also called by other names such as calamine.
Zinc has been used in its impure form by artisans such as brass - an alloy of zinc and copper since early times and today it is one of the most commonly used metals in different industries such as for the production of automobiles, construction of buildings and pharmaceuticals.
Fast Facts about Zinc
- The world’s first pills do consist of zinc carbonates used to soothe sore eyes and was discovered on a Roman ship that wrecked in 140 BC. - A metallic element present in soil and makes up an average of 65 grams for every ton. - Zinc production is from 70% mining and 30% recycling since zinc is highly recyclable. - Ancient people used zinc mostly to make brass, an alloy of zinc and copper. - Zinc has the element symbol of Zn and an atomic number of 30. - Zinc is the least toxic trace minerals.
Low level of zinc is linked to a number of conditions that include weak immune system making you prone to cold and flu. Studies also show that it is connected to mental conditions such as depression, attention deficit disorder and autism. However, excessive zinc in the body restrains iron absorption and may lead to the permanent loss of sense of taste and smell.
Research also suggests that deficiency in zinc can greatly impact growth and body weight. Zinc deficiency can be caused by inadequate absorption in the body, increased loss and reduced dietary intake. Zinc deficiency can be diagnosed by using urine test, blood test and hair analysis. Here are the following signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency that you need to look out for:
- Slower growth development - Unexplained weight loss - Weak immune system - Poor wound healing - Taste disturbances - Diarrhoea - Hair loss - Infertility
1. Aids Digestion. Zinc is one of the minerals which is good for digestion where it helps prevent stomach problems such as diarrhoea and indigestion. It is necessary in the production of digestive enzymes and stomach acids that broke down the food properly in order for us to absorb the nutrients we need.
2. Boosts Immunity. Boosts immunity reducing your risk of having infections like flu and colds. People who usually experience cold sores and infections need zinc in order to prevent zinc deficiency that weakens their immune system. Studies also show that it can help reduce respiratory infections in children.
3. Brain Health. Zinc actually supports brain development and cognitive function where some researches prove that it plays a critical role in managing communication between cells in your brain. Very low levels of zinc have been associated with brain diseases which include schizophrenia and dementia.
4. Eye Health. When it comes to eye health, zinc is essential in the prevention of eye problems like age-related macular degeneration, night blindness, glaucoma and cataracts as it helps absorb vitamin A and antioxidants that are necessary for fighting off free radicals, good vision and the protection of the surface of eyes.
5. Balances Hormones. When it comes to hormonal balance, zinc plays an important role for both men and women. It increases testosterone in men and the production of estrogen in women for healthy reproductive health. Also, essential for pregnancy as it helps in the proper growth and development of the baby.
6. Liver Health. The mineral may help in fighting liver disease and promotes healthy liver organ. It protects your liver from any chemical damage and supports detoxification and cleansing of it. Moreover, it reduces free radical damage, prevents inflammation and helps with proper nutrient absorption.
7. Supports Muscles.Zinc is stored primarily in our muscles and is essential for cell division. It is necessary for normal muscle growth and repair. Also, builds muscle mass and promotes healthy metabolism which can be helpful even when you are doing intense exercise since it maintains strength on your muscles.
8. Skin Health. It actually rejuvenates skin and helps vanish acne marks and dark spots on your face. Zinc works as an antioxidant and fights free radicals that could damage your skin. There are also studies that prove zinc can help treat and prevent acne outbreak for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
9. Heart Health.Zinc is one of the minerals that you need for your heart health asit helps support blood vessels which is essential for healthy circulation and optimal cardiovascular function that reduce your risk of having cardiovascular problems such as coronary artery disease and cardiomyopathy.
10. Increases Fertility. Studies show that zinc can actually contribute to the ovulation and fertility in women as well as for men where it increases testosterone production and sex drive. Zinc is often associated with impotence and infertility in men. In women, adequate levels of zinc is necessary for a healthy egg.
Zinc absorption from foods does vary from 20% to 40% on ingested zinc. Zinc that comes from animal foods is the best-absorbed form. However, oysters are the richest source of zinc, with 6 medium-sized oysters providing 32 mg of zinc.
Our body does not produce the zinc that we need so we are required to get it daily through our diet by taking nutritional supplements, consuming fortified foods and beverages. Here are some of the following food sources that are rich in zinc:
- Fish & Shellfish (tuna, cod, salmon, oysters, lobster, crab, shrimp) - Legumes (chickpeas, lima beans, black-eyed peas, green beans) - Seeds & Nuts (sunflower, sesame, almonds, peanuts, walnuts) - Poultry & Red Meat (grilled beef, boiled lamb, chicken liver) - Fruit (watermelon, apple, grapefruit, orange, avocados) - Others (brewer's yeast, mushrooms, tofu, miso) - Milkshake and Yogurt
Zinc supplements come in a form of tablets, capsules, liquid and also lozenges which are used for treating colds. We also advise consulting your healthcare practitioner to know what's best for you and your health needs. It is very essential to get medical advice from health experts when you're planning to take any kinds of supplements or medications.
There are many forms of zinc supplements but the common form of it that is used in making dietary supplements is zinc sulfate which is the least expensive form. However, it may cause stomach irritation and is less absorbable compared to other forms. Here are the other types of zinc:
Dietary supplements should be taken with care because of the potential side effects and interactions it might cause. Always remember that you need to consult first your healthcare provider to know the right dosage and duration for the supplements you are planning to take.
Here are the following dietary reference intakes for zinc which are based on gender and age:
0 to 6 months
7 to 12 months
1 to 3 years
4 to 8 years
9 to 13 years
14 to 18 years
* Adequate intake
Here are the therapeutic ranges for adults (elemental zinc):
For Men: 30 to 60 mg per day
For Women: 30 to 45 mg per day
Precautions and Side Effects
Children and Pregnant Women. Keep out of reach of children. If not properly administered, it can lead to adverse side effects. Make sure to consult first your healthcare provider before taking any kinds of medications and supplements in order to prevent any overdose and adverse effects.
Antibiotics. Avoid using oral zinc if you are taking antibiotics such as tetracycline and quinolone antibiotics for it might affect the effectivity of the antibiotics in fighting off bacteria. You can take antibiotic two hours before or four hours after taking zinc which can minimize the effects.
NSAIDs. Research suggests that zinc interacts with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs which could reduce the effectiveness of these medications. NSAIDs that help reduce inflammation and pain include ibuprofen, indomethacin and naprosyn.
Immunosuppressant Medications. Zinc supports immune function and therefore should not be taken with immunosuppressant medications such as cyclosporine, corticosteroids and other medications that are intended to suppress the immune system.
Penicillamine. Prevent taking zinc supplements with this kind of medication which is used in easing symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and Wilson's disease for it might decrease zinc levels or reduce the drug's effectivity. You can take zinc supplements at least two hours before or after taking penicillamine.
Overdose. Excessive zinc intake can be harmful because it can cause adverse effects that include vomiting, nausea. loss of appetite, stomach pains, headaches and diarrhoea.
Nutrients (Braun & Cohen 2010)
Calcium and Ironmay affect zinc absorption and should be taken before or after 2 hours.
Coffeealso reduces zinc absorption, should be given 2 hours interval.
Coppermay interfere with zinc, therefore, you should avoid using high dose zinc long term.