Zinc

What is Zinc?

While the human body only requires a small amount of zinc in order to function properly, this trace mineral is extremely important to overall health and nutrition. Zinc affects not only the immune system, but cell division and DNA synthesis as well.

What does Zinc do?

Zinc not only boosts the immune system, but studies have shown that symptoms associated with the common cold or flu diminish more quickly in those individuals who consume zinc regularly, or take supplements to fight off these infections and viruses.

Zinc works with upwards of 200 different types of enzymes in the body in an effort to maintain normal growth and development patterns, direct the functions of the immune system and the creation of male testosterone just to name a few. Additionally, zinc plays a major role in producing healthy and viable sperm in males. While zinc does in fact reside in each cell of the body, it is also evenly distributed amongst eyes, hair, nails, skin as well as the prostate gland in males.

Where is Zinc found?

Unfortunately, while the body does store zinc in a variety of locations, it doesn’t have an extremely efficient method of doing so. That means that the majority of an individual’s zinc intake must come from foods that are consumed.

Zinc is primarily found in foods that are rich in protein. Some examples of zinc-rich food products could include whole grains, legumes and nuts. Dairy products do contain trace amounts of zinc, however, more sufficient sources include seafood, fish, poultry. Oysters are often pointed out as a food source that contains high zinc content. It’s important to note that for individuals seeking more direct forms of zinc, over-the-counter dietary supplements of zinc in capsule form are available.

What happens when someone has a Zinc deficiency?

The majority of diets today provide for sufficient consumption of zinc. However, it’s relatively normal that men and women alike have slightly low zinc levels. Those groups of people who pose the greatest risk for acquiring a zinc deficiency include those with high fiber diets, vegetarians, people over the age of 50, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers along with those individuals who abuse alcohol. Similarly, individuals who suffer from diabetes have a tendency to have low zinc levels and may require supplements in order to maintain balance.

Symptoms of a zinc deficiency are notoriously varied from one person to another, however, there are a few signs to look out for. These may include abnormal growth patterns, hyperactivity, insomnia, loss of appetite, taste or smell, anemia, low fertility rates, skin rashes or high blood pressure.

Helpful food sources, supplements and additional benefits of Zinc

In addition to the primary functions of zinc in the body, it has been shown that zinc can help improve memory and helps to prevent vision loss as it is related to Macular degeneration. Those individuals who are taking zinc supplements on a regular basis should be advised that zinc tends to work more efficiently alongside Vitamins A, B6, D and E as well as insulin, magnesium and manganese.

Zinc – AIs (Adequate Intakes)

Infants
0-6 months
Milligrams per Day
2

 

Zinc – RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances)

Vegetarians have a lower Zinc absorption and need more Zinc than non-vegetarians.

Infants
7-12 months
Milligrams per Day
3
Children
1-3 years
4-8 years

3
5
Males
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

8
11
11
11
11
11
Females
9-13 years
14-18 years
19-30 years
31-50 years
50-70 years
> 70 years

8
9
8
8
8
8
Pregnancy
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

12
11
11
Lactation
< 19 years
19-30 years
31-50 years

13
12
12

 

Sources:
http://www.nutritional-supplements-health-guide.com/zinc-deficiency-symptoms.html
http://vsearch.nlm.nih.gov/vivisimo/cgi-bin/query-meta?v%3Aproject=medlineplus&query=zinc&x=16&y=14
http://www.webmd.com/search/search_results/default.aspx?query=zinc
http://www.vitalhealthzone.com/nutrition/minerals/zinc.html
http://nutrition.about.com/od/therapeuticnutrition1/g/zinc.htm
USDA Dietary Reference Intakes