What is zinc?
One of the most common elements in the earth’s crust, it is found in the air, soil, and water and is present in all foods. Used since ancient Egyptian times to enhance wound healing, zinc is a mineral that is necessary for the functioning of enzymes and plays a vital role in many biological processes, including the production of cells that help keep the body healthy.
Why is it necessary?
Zinc helps maintain optimum immune function and boosts immunity, and creates new cells which allows healthy collagen production and wound healing. It is also a component of key enzymes that help preserve vision and protect against age-related vision loss, including macular degeneration. It further plays a role in carbohydrate and protein metabolism, and may be beneficial as a supplement for people with severe diarrhea, sickle cell anemia, gastric ulcers, and acne. In addition, it is vital for normal fetal development and the maturation of sperm.
What are the signs of a zinc deficiency?
Signs of zinc deficiency include hair loss, weight loss, delayed wound healing, chronic infection, and rough skin or rashes. Symptoms include poor appetite, depression and mental lethargy.
How much, and what kind, does an adult need?
Dr. Weil recommends adults take 15 mg of zinc supplements daily, or up to 30 mg daily for vegetarians or for those who don’t eat many foods of animal origin.
How much does a child need?
According to the National Institutes for Health, infants 7 months – 3 years should get 3 mg daily; children 4 – 8 years, 5 mg; 9 – 13 years, 8 mg; males 14 years and older 11 mg; females 14 -18, 9 mg; pregnant females 14 -18, 13 mg; and pregnant females 19 and older, 11 mg.
Which foods are the best sources?
Animal foods such as beef, eggs, and oysters (cooked) are a rich source of zinc. The best plant sources are legumes (dried beans, garbanzos, black-eyed peas, lentils, peas, and whole soy products), pumpkin seeds, whole grains and nuts.
Are there any risks associated with too much?
High doses of zinc supplements can actually decrease immunity, interfere with the absorption of copper, leading to copper deficiency, and increase the risk of anemia. Excessive amounts can also cause nausea, headaches, lethargy, irritability, stomach irritation, and vomiting.
Are there any other special considerations?
- Zinc can cause stomach upset, occasionally resulting in nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea – take zinc with food to help lessen this risk.
- The following may interfere with or decrease, zinc absorption: high calcium intake, some vegetarian diets, caffeine, alcoholism, oral penicillin, diuretics, and dairy and bran products.
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may reduce zinc excretion.
- Copper can be depleted when taking zinc supplements, so consider taking supplemental copper in a zinc-to-copper ratio of 10 to 1.