Zinc is most popularly known for boosting immunity and keeping the common cold at bay. But this trace mineral is important, though only in small amounts, to maintain overall health and perform various bodily functions. It aids hormone production, facilitates digestion, and even aids growth and repair of cells. Ah well, there’s more – but we ain’t telling everything here, read on to know all the benefits of zinc!
Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It strengthens your immunity and even contributes to the production of proteins and DNA. It also helps in wound healing.
Zinc is also present in all the body tissues and is imperative for healthy cell division. It has antioxidant benefits too – the mineral fights free radical damage and can even slow down aging. That’s about zinc in a nutshell. For more detailed information on the benefits, keep reading.
Zinc was found to have a beneficial effect on the immune cells. In studies conducted on both young adults and the elderly, zinc supplementation was found to decrease oxidative stress and halt the generation of inflammatory cytokines (1). Zinc deficiency was also found to alter immune responses in animals – and can have a similar effect in humans as well (2).
The mineral works miraculously well to treat the common cold. It promotes faster wound healing as well. And as per reports by the World Health Organization, zinc supplementation might help boost respiratory health in children (3). Though more research is required, this is an encouraging move.
An American study speaks of how zinc can aid cancer treatment. The mineral reduces the development of inflammatory blood vessels and induces cancer cell death (4). Other studies have stated that zinc can halt the proliferation of esophageal cancer cells. Zinc deficiency is quite common in cancer patients, suggesting a link between the mineral and cancer remission (5).
And since zinc is an effective anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent, it helps prevent cancer.
| Did You Know?|
Zinc is the 24th most common element in the planet’s crust. It makes up 0.0075% of the Earth’s crust.
Zinc supplementation can have beneficial effects on glycemic control (6). As per other reports, women with prediabetes were found to be deficient in zinc.
Zinc has also been found to prevent amylin (a protein) from forming clumps in the body, which can contribute to diabetes and other chronic ailments (7). The mineral also balances insulin, which can help deal with diabetes. Zinc also allows for the adequate utilization of digestive enzymes – these help insulin bind to cells and ensure glucose is used as fuel and not stored as fat.
Studies have shown that zinc can protect the heart muscles. The mineral can prevent oxidative stress that might otherwise harm the heart in the long run. It helps the heart deal with oxidative stress and other related issues (8).
Zinc can also regulate heartbeat. Research showed that patients with congestive heart failure had excess zinc deficiency. The mineral also regulates the way calcium travels through the heart (9). Another American study shows how high zinc intake can help prevent angina pectoris (severe pain in the chest) (10).
Zinc deficiency can also lead to high blood pressure, which might eventually lead to cardiac issues.
Studies have stated that obese individuals tend to have low levels of zinc. This means that boosting dietary zinc can aid weight loss. Obese patients on zinc supplementation had improved body mass indices, lost weight, and even showed improvements in triglyceride levels. This could be because zinc deficiency can provoke the body to store excess fat.
[ Read: How To Lose Weight Fast At Home ]
Several studies have spoken about the beneficial effects of zinc on brain health. One such study talks about how the mineral has been successfully employed to treat certain types of schizophrenia (11). Zinc also plays a role in modulating the brain and the body’s response to stress. In fact, the highest amount of zinc in our bodies is found in our brains (in the hippocampus).
High dose zinc supplementation was also found to enhance learning and memory (12).
Zinc is found to have a restorative effect on bone loss. The mineral can be used in various forms to prevent and even treat osteoporosis (13). Zinc deficiency has also been linked to deterioration of bone metabolism. It can also stimulate bone formation and mineralization, two important aspects of bone health. This is particularly true as zinc helps in cellular protein synthesis.
Zinc has also been observed to be a precious trace element for oral health. The mineral is effective against commonly prevalent oral health issues like gingivitis, dental caries, and periodontitis (14).
The macula (part of the retina) contains high levels of zinc. This mineral helps vitamin A create melanin, which is a pigment that protects the eye. Some evidence also suggests that zinc supplements can help prevent age-related macular degeneration (15).
Poor night vision and cloudy cataracts have also been linked to zinc deficiency (16).
It has been found that people with zinc deficiency often experience digestive disturbances, the most common of them being difficulty in digesting protein. This is because zinc plays a role in the production of essential stomach acids.
The mineral can also help prevent several gastrointestinal issues. This stems from the fact that zinc can enhance the gastrointestinal epithelial barrier function, which can prevent related ailments (17). Digestive issues, including diarrhea, are some of the common signs of zinc deficiency.
[ Read: 15 Foods That Help With Digestion ]
Research has shown that low birth weight infants whose mothers were on zinc supplementation during pregnancy had a reduced risk of diarrhea and dysentery.
As per the World Health Organization, zinc deficiency might lead to intra-uterine deficiency during pregnancy. Maternal zinc deficiency might also compromise the health of the infant and lead to poor birth outcomes. Studies show that over 80% of the world’s pregnant women are deficient in zinc (18). Zinc was also found to give favorable outcomes during pregnancy as well as lactation.
Zinc was found to relieve cramping and pain related to PMS (21). This might be because it improves blood flow to the uterus and also reduces inflammation.
Zinc enables the male body to produce testosterone, which is one reason its deficiency can also lead to erectile dysfunction. Studies have shown that zinc supplementation can increase testosterone, thereby treating male sexual problems – erectile dysfunction being one of them (22). Consuming 30 milligrams of zinc a day was found to increase testosterone levels in men.
Another study shows that a sense of smell could be important for libido – and that zinc deficiency can decrease the sense of smell (23). This pretty much means that low levels of zinc indirectly decrease libido. Adequate zinc levels were also found to support prostate health.
One Belgian study states how zinc supplements can help treat chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is accompanied by increased oxidative stress – and since zinc fights oxidative stress, it can help fight the condition (24). As a result, zinc can also increase the energy levels.
Though there is less information on this, some reliable sources say that zinc can help with muscle growth and repair. It can also aid protein synthesis – which can be beneficial in bodybuilding.
| Did You Know?|
After copper, aluminum, and iron, zinc is the most commonly used metal in the world’s industries.
Zinc can help in detoxification by enhancing the function of the liver and kidneys. Zinc deficiency is often linked to liver cirrhosis, and adequate levels of the mineral can prevent oxidative liver damage (25). The mineral is also helpful in preventing kidney disease and keeping the organs functioning perfectly (26).
Studies show that patients with tinnitus have low levels of zinc. Though we need more research in this area, zinc can be a potential treatment for tinnitus (27).
Reports suggest that acne patients are usually low in zinc. The mineral is known to kill acne-causing bacteria. It also fights inflammation, which usually occurs when bacteria invade a blocked pore and cause severe irritation. Zinc also reduces the activation of keratinocytes – which are cells that produce keratin (a protein that binds the cells together). Excess keratin leads to blocked pores and acne.
These properties of zinc can make your skin clear. It might also help with scars and herpes. You can get creams and ointments from the pharmacy with zinc as the primary constituent. Check with your doctor before using them, though. The anti-aging benefits of zinc can also help reduce wrinkles and age spots.
Zinc helps you maintain healthy hair. A deficiency in the mineral can lead to the deterioration of the protein structure that makes up the hair follicles. Taking adequate zinc can help in this aspect.
Well, we are done with the benefits. But to enjoy these benefits, one must take adequate amounts of zinc.
|0–6 months||2 mg*||2 mg*||–||–|
|7–12 months||3 mg||3 mg||–||–|
|1–3 years||3 mg||3 mg||–||–|
|4–8 years||5 mg||5 mg||–||–|
|9–13 years||8 mg||8 mg||–||–|
|14–18 years||11 mg||9 mg||12 mg||13 mg|
|19+ years||11 mg||8 mg||11 mg||12 mg|
|* Adequate Intake (AI)|
In case you don’t meet the requirement, you can become zinc deficient. But how do you know if you are deficient in zinc? Well, these symptoms can tell you.
The most common symptoms include:
– Changes in appetite
– Unexplained weight gain or loss
– Hair loss
– Chronic fatigue syndrome
– Digestive problems (most commonly, diarrhea)
– Low immunity
– Poor concentration and memory
– Slow wound healing
– Worsened PMS symptoms
How can you avoid these symptoms and get adequate levels of zinc? Simple – consume foods rich in the mineral.
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.
You might also want to look at supplements. Zinc is found in most multivitamin and multimineral supplements. They contain zinc in the form of zinc sulfate, zinc acetate, or zinc gluconate.
All good. But wait – don’t go overboard.
Since zinc can lower blood sugar, people on medications must be careful to not to have them as their blood sugar levels may go down way too much.
Excess zinc can cause complications during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Excess zinc can also cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, loss of appetite, headaches, and diarrhea.
These side effects can occur even with an overdose of supplements.
Though a trace mineral, it has its own importance. And effects of its deficiency can be quite troublesome. Include adequate zinc in your diet. It’s worth it.
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What happens if you take zinc supplements on an empty stomach?
You might feel nauseated and also have an upset stomach. Taking supplements in between meals with water can help best in the absorption of zinc.
What is the difference between zinc and zinc picolinate?
Zinc is not easily absorbed by itself. The absorption can be improved when it is attached to another substance (picolinic acid, in this case) that is absorbed well. The resultant combination is zinc picolinate. Zinc is just the mineral.
Which forms of zinc are best absorbed?
These are zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, zinc monomethionine, and zinc glycerate. These are the forms of elemental zinc. From foods, zinc from animal-based sources is best absorbed.