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What Is Vitamin Zinc For

Finding A Healthy Zinc Balance

Why You Need Zinc

To best benefit from zinc without going overboard, focus on food sources. If youre an omnivore, aim for a variety of plant and animal foods. If youre plant-based, zero in on top plant sources and be sure to incorporate them often. If youre concerned about not getting enough zinc from your regular diet due to dislikes or dietary restrictions, talk to your doctor or dietitian for guidance and whether zinc supplements might be appropriate for you. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for optimal wellness, but striking the right balance is vital for reaping its benefits.

Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, is Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a private practice performance nutritionist who has consulted for five professional sports teams.

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What Are The Benefits Of Zinc

Eating a healthy, varied, and balanced diet is really important, as it helps us get all the important nutrients our bodies need.

Theres a long list of vitamins and minerals that should feature in our daily diet, and each is important in its own way. In this particular guide, well be talking about zinc, its benefits, and how you can get more into your diet.

Am I Getting Enough Zinc

A little bit of zinc can go a long way, but it also doesnt take much to become deficient in it either.

If your zinc levels are too low, you may see signs of zinc deficiency, which can include hair loss, diarrhea, weight loss, brittle nails, difficulty concentrating, decreased sense of smell and taste, acne, among many other issues.

In addition, consuming too much zinc, especially from supplements, can also have harmful effects and lead to zinc toxicity.

Toxicity can occur when taking high levels of elemental zinc and can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, metallic taste and headaches, Harrison said. If elemental zinc is ingested long-term, copper deficiency can also occur.

Supplementation isnt required for anyone, but there are certain groups who are at greater risk for deficiency. These include the elderly, vegetarians, those with food insecurities and alcohol use disorder.

Harrison shared the following advice if you plan to take a zinc supplement.

If youre supplementing zinc take it without other mineral supplements, such as iron and calcium, to avoid medication interaction, Harrison said. Zinc also works best in an acidic environment, so talk to your doctor if youre taking proton pump inhibitors or antacids as these can increase the pH or make the environment less acidic.

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What Are The Foods Rich In Zinc

Here are some of the richest sources of zinc. Do keep in mind that the absorption rate of zinc is better in animal-based foods than plant foods.

  • Lamb
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Salmon
  • Cocoa powder

You might also want to look at supplements. Zinc is found in most multivitamin and multimineral supplements. They often contain zinc in the form of zinc sulfate, zinc acetate, or zinc gluconate, though the best-absorbed forms of zinc are the glycinate, citrate, and monomethionine forms of the mineral, which are found in higher quality supplements.

All good. But wait dont go overboard.

What Happens When You Have A Zinc Deficiency

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A zinc deficiency happens when your body isnt getting enough zinc to function properly. This could be because of a medical condition or a deficit in your diet. It can be improved by making dietary changes or taking zinc supplements.

In children, zinc deficiency could slow down growth and development. Some symptoms of zinc deficiency include:

  • Hair loss
  • Having wounds that are difficult to heal

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Boost Immunity And Reduce Inflammation

Zinc is essential for sustaining the immune system. It helps eliminate pathogens, and a zinc deficiency can reduce this capacity. The immune system also needs zinc to produce or activate certain cells.

Meanwhile, zinc can help ease common cold symptoms. Researchers have found that these symptoms eased more quickly for participants who took of zinc acetate, in a lozenge, every 23 hours than participants who did not.

Still, determining the best dosage for people with colds requires further research.

Zincs Roles In The Body

As discussed earlier in this guide, zinc is a trace mineral, which means it isnt created by the body. This means that we obtain zinc from the food we eat as well as through supplementation as needed.

Zinc is used by the body in countless ways. In fact, its the second most abundant trace mineral in the body. Zinc is found in every cell, which shows just how important it is in maintaining a healthy body thats working efficiently and effectively.

So what exact roles does zinc play? Here are a few that highlight the criticality of this mineral:

Needed by more than 300 enzymes that play a role in nerve function, metabolism, digestion, and other processes

Necessary for the development and function of immune cells

Fundamental to skin health, including wound healing

Plays a role in protein production and DNA synthesis

Necessary for properly functioning senses of taste and smell

Healthy body growth and development also relies on proper zinc levels. This is because zinc plays a major role in cell growth and division.

These roles only scratch the surface of the many ways that zinc is involved in day-to-day internal body functions and processes. With a high quality zinc supplement, like one from Elm and Rye, you can have peace of mind that your body has the support it needs.

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Special Precautions & Warnings


Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Zinc is LIKELY SAFE for most pregnant and breast-feeding women when used in the recommended daily amounts . However, zinc is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used in high doses by breast-feeding women and LIKELY UNSAFE when used in high doses by pregnant women. Pregnant women over 18 should not take more than 40 mg of zinc per day pregnant women age 14 to 18 should not take more than 34 mg per day. Breast-feeding women over 18 should not take more than 40 mg of zinc per day breast-feeding women age 14 to 18 should not take more than 34 mg per day.

Alcoholism: Long-term, excessive alcohol drinking is linked to poor zinc absorption in the body.

Diabetes: Large doses of zinc can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. People with diabetes should use zinc products cautiously.

Hemodialysis: People receiving hemodialysis treatments seem to be at risk for zinc deficiency and might require zinc supplements.

HIV /AIDS: Use zinc cautiously if you have HIV/AIDS. Zinc use has been linked to shorter survival time in people with HIV/AIDs.

Syndromes in which it is difficult for the body to absorb nutrients: People with malabsorption syndromes may be zinc deficient.

Rheumatoid arthritis : People with RA absorb less zinc.

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You should be able to get the amount of beta-carotene you need by eating a varied and balanced diet.

If you decide to take beta-carotene supplements, it’s important not to take too much as this could be harmful.

Do not take more than 7mg of beta-carotene supplements a day unless advised to by a doctor.

People who smoke or who have been exposed to asbestos are advised not to take any beta-carotene supplements.

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It May Offer Protective Effects Against Cardiovascular Disease

In a 2015 meta-analysis, researchers found that zinc supplementation significantly reduced total cholesterol, LDL bad cholesterol, and triglycerides, which are risk factors for heart disease when elevated. And studies show that having adequate levels of zinc in your body may help prevent plaque buildup in your arteries, which can protect your heart.

What Is Zincand What Are Its Benefits

Zinc is an essential mineral that performs many different functions related to cell growth. It assists with immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division, according to the National Institutes of Health. While zinc is considered a trace mineralmeaning its only needed in small amountsits especially important to consume enough of it during times of rapid growth .

Zinc can be consumed via foods like poultry, seafood, beef, pork, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds and fortified breakfast cereals. It also comes in supplement form, often as zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate and zinc acetate.

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How To Take It

You should take zinc with water or juice. If zinc causes stomach upset, it can be taken with meals. Don’t take zinc at the same time as iron or calcium supplements.

A strong relationship exists between zinc and copper. Too much of one can cause a deficiency in the other. If you take zinc, including zinc in a multivitamin, you should also take copper.

Do not give zinc supplements to a child without talking to your doctor.

Daily intake of dietary zinc are listed below:


  • Infants birth – 6 months: 2 mg
  • Infants 7 – 12 months: 3 mg
  • Children 1 – 3 years: 3 mg
  • Children 4 – 8 years: 5 mg
  • Children 9 – 13 years: 8 mg
  • Boys 14 – 18 years: 11 mg
  • Girls 14 – 18 years: 9 mg


  • Men 19 years and older: 11 mg
  • Women 19 years and older: 8 mg
  • Pregnant women 14 – 18 years: 12 mg
  • Pregnant women 19 years and older: 11 mg
  • Breastfeeding women 14 – 18 years: 13 mg
  • Breastfeeding women 19 years and older: 12 mg

You should not take high doses of zinc for more than a few days unless your doctor tells you to. Talk to your doctor before taking more than 40 mg of zinc per day and take breaks from zinc supplementation. During those breaks, get zinc from a well-balanced diet.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance

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The recommended dietary allowance for zinc is listed by gender and age group in Table 1. Infants, children, adolescents, and pregnant and lactating women are at increased risk of zinc deficiency. Since a sensitive indicator of zinc nutritional status is not readily available, the RDA for zinc is based on a number of different indicators of zinc nutritional status and represents the daily intake likely to prevent deficiency in nearly all individuals in a specific age and gender group .

Table 1. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for Zinc

Life Stage

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What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Zinc Supplements

Taking too much zinc from high dose zinc supplements can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and headaches.

Additionally, taking in too much zinc over longer time periods can cause negative side effects such as decreased immune function, low copper levels, and reduced HDL cholesterol levels (

What Should I Avoid While Taking Zinc

Avoid taking this medication with foods that are high in calcium or phosphorus, which can make it harder for your body to absorb Zinc. Foods high in calcium or phosphorus include milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, dried beans or peas, lentils, nuts, peanut butter, beer, cola soft drinks, and hot cocoa.

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Are You Getting Enough Zinc

Zinc is a trace element and an essential micronutrient for humans. Essential micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are required in small amounts by the body for optimal health. Since the body is unable to synthesize these micronutrients, a dietary source is necessary.

Early during digestion, zinc ions present in food release and then are absorbed in the small intestine. About 70% of zinc in circulation is bound to the blood protein albumin. Any conditions that alter the albumin concentration, therefore, have a secondary effect on the bodys zinc levels.1 Low albumin levels occur in conditions in which the body does not properly absorb and digest protein, such as Crohns disease or celiac disease, or in diseases where large volumes of protein are lost through diarrhea. The liver synthesizes albumin, so any form of liver inflammation or disease can also negatively affect zinc levels.

Researchers have found that zinc-deficient animals require 50% more food to obtain the same weight gain as an animal with adequate amounts of zinc.2 They suggest that humans might react to zinc deficiency in a similar way.

How We Select Supplements

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Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here.

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third-party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLabs.

It’s important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

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Zinc Benefits For Men

Taking zinc provides a range of benefits for men and women, but it has some significant perks for men. One benefit of taking zinc for men is that it may help to regulate testosterone levels in the body. Zinc may also help men reduce the risk of an enlarged prostate and can potentially help those dealing with symptoms like frequent urination. Men may also benefit from taking zinc in other ways, such as promoting healthy, thicker hair and assisting with protein synthesis for strong muscles.

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An Effective Dosing Protocol

It seems likely that maximal zinc absorption, over the long-term, would be provided by a dose somewhere between 40 mg/d and 110 mg/d. We also know that zinc absorption is greater when the dose is spread out, and when it is not accompanied by sources of phytate, such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes). Therefore, I recommend maximizing zinc absorption as follows:

  • Since it takes food about 4-6 hours to move through the stomach and 4-6 hours to move through the small intestine, Iâm assuming the short-term saturation of zinc transporters resulting from the presence of zinc in food and supplements would be more or less reset every five hours.

  • Aim for a total zinc intake of 40-110 mg/d, split evenly into doses that can be separated by 5 hours.

  • Consume zinc supplements away from any meals containing whole grains, nuts, seeds, or legumes, whenever possible.

The protocol I use in The Food and Supplement Guide for the Coronavirus fulfills these criteria and can be summarized as follows:

  • Consume 7-15 mg zinc four times a day, spread out as much as possible.

  • If possible, take it on an empty stomach. If that causes nausea, take it with some phytate-free food.

  • Use one zinc acetate lozenge per day, providing an additional 18 mg zinc. Before and after any deliberate potential exposures to the virus, use an additional lozenge. If a potential exposure is an accident, use a lozenge afterwards.

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Zinc Helps You Maintain A Healthy Immune System

While the research is indecisive on whether or not zinc supplementation can help treat your common cold, it can help fend off toxins and foreign substances that threaten your health.

Zinc can boost T-cell production, which is an important component of the immune system responsible for fighting off infections, Harrison said. Low levels of zinc are connected with reduced T-cell function, which explains why those who are zinc deficient are more prone to illness.

Signs Of Zinc Deficiency

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Because zinc is used in many areas of the body, deficiency can be a serious matter. Zinc deficiency can cause the following: â

  • Delayed growth
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps and indigestion

The upper limit dosage of zinc is 40 milligrams/day for adults. If you take more zinc than you should for a long period, you can have low copper levels, which can affect your nervous system.

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The Best Sources Of Zinc

Many foods naturally contain zinc, according to William Li, M.D., author of Eat to Beat Disease and president and medical director of the Angiogenesis Foundation.

Meat is a particularly rich source of zinc. For context, a 3-ounce serving of beef offers 7 milligrams of zincand that of crab offers 6.5 milligrams of zinc, while the same amount of chicken contains about 2 milligrams, according to the National Institutes of Health. Dairy products, on the other hand, contain a moderate amount of zinc .

Some plant foods including whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, along with some veggies, and fruits also offer the mineral, but theyâre not nearly as rich in the nutrient as meat. Case in point: Half-cup servings of kidney beans and diced portabella mushrooms contain less than 1 milligram each. Moreover, the little zinc that is in whole grains and legumes is difficult to absorb. Thatâs because both foods are high in phytates, aka natural chemicals that âimpair absorption of minerals like zinc, iron, and calcium in the digestive system,â explains Dr. Li. Phytates do this by binding to the mineral , reducing how much your body absorbs.


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