Zinc is a very important mineral in the body but can sometimes get overlooked for more popular minerals like Calcium and Iron. Its cellular functions are crucial to our survival and its deficiency can contribute to the development of many symptoms which can eventually turn into a chronic disease.
You may ask, what does Zinc do for the body and why is it so important? Well, in this article we will explore Zinc supplement benefits, along with signs of deficiency, food sources, and recommended daily intake.
Zinc And Its Functions
Zinc is an essential micronutrient in the body and is a constituent of at least 25 enzymes involved in digestion and the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. It’s an important component of insulin, which is a hormone that is involved in blood glucose regulation. It’s also involved in the proper development of the reproductive organs and the normal functioning of the prostate gland. Its presence in the body speeds up wound healing (especially when taken before and after surgery), bone fractures and it keeps the skin glowing and healthy (as it is involved in the formation of keratin, a vitamin found in hair and nails).
Zinc is best known for supporting the immune system and protecting against free radical damage. It plays a role in the function of white blood cells and protects the body from potential bacteria and virus intrusion. It is also involved in the process of alcohol dehydrogenase, which helps the liver purge alcohol out of the system.
Zinc has been used to treat many skin conditions like acne, boils, skin ulcers, psoriasis, and eczema.
Its supplementation has also been used for colds, sore throats, immune health, male sexual problems, cataracts, and hypertension.
Zinc Food Sources
Zinc content in food is dependent upon the soil content. Chemical fertilizers can impair Zincs absorption into plants, so organic produce is always the best route to ensure normal zinc levels are present in leafy greens. Other vegetarian sources of Zinc include black eyes peas, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dulse, soybeans, wheat germ, and whole grains.
Non- vegetarian sources include crab, eggs, fish, herring, mushroom, organ meats, oysters, poultry, turkey, and sardines.
Moderate doses of Zinc helps to boost the immune system but excessive amounts can actually depress it. Just like all things, too much of one thing is never good.
It is recommended that no more than 100mg be taken daily, according to the Nutrition Almanac, written by Lavon J. Dunne. Zinc’s daily intake should not exceed the listed dosage amounts for the following age and genders;
- Children 1-10yrs - 10mg daily
- Males 11 yrs + - 15mg
- Females 11yrs + - 12mg
- Pregnant - 15mg
If you are lactating, the daily intake would increase to its highest amount at 19mg a day. As you can see, males generally need more zinc as it plays a significant role in semen production and prostate health. This is very similar to the idea that women need more iron, due to monthly menses and/or pregnancy.
The above dosage amounts are for those who do not suffer from a Zinc deficiency, doses may be increased depending on individual needs, talk to your doctor.
Deficiency in Zinc is defined as having insufficient amounts in the body to perform correlated functions. It’s much more common now due to soil losses and losses in food processing, which can produce a variety of symptoms. The main symptoms of deficiency include acne, eczema, alopecia, brittle nails, mouth ulcers, night blindness, impaired immunity (always sick), and diarrhea. Causes of deficiency include diet, aging, birth control pills, surgery, alcoholism, parasites, malabsorption, and increased copper intake. Zinc supplementation is a quick and easy way to restore optimal levels in the body.
All in all, Zincs role in the body is definitely not a small one. Being an important component in the health of the immune system, Zinc supplementation has many benefits. Listen to your body, be mindful of potential symptoms, and always talk to your doctor about the right Zinc supplementation for you.