In this article, we will explore the benefits of zinc, the symptoms of deficiency, and how you can ensure you’re getting enough of this essential mineral in your diet.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the human body’s functioning. It is necessary for various physiological processes, including immune system function, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and growth and development.
Zinc deficiency can lead to a wide range of health problems, including impaired immune function, delayed wound healing, and even cognitive impairment. However, despite its critical role in the body, many people may not be getting enough zinc through their diet.
Table of Contents
What Is Zinc? Benefits And Use Cases
Zinc is a metallic element that is essential for human health. It is a trace mineral, meaning that the body only needs small amounts of it to function properly. Zinc is found in all body tissues, but the highest concentrations are in the brain, muscles, bones, kidneys, and liver.
It is involved in a wide variety of bodily functions, including growth and development, immune function, wound healing, and the sense of taste and smell. It is also important for the functioning of enzymes that are responsible for hundreds of chemical reactions in the body, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis and cell division.
Additionally, zinc is important for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. It is also essential for the synthesis of collagen, a protein that helps to keep the skin elastic and strong, which is important for wound healing and the prevention of scars. Zinc is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement.
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Zinc offers a range of benefits to the human body, including:
- Immune function
- Wound healing
- Growth and development
- Taste and smell
- Skin health
- Protein synthesis
- Testosterone boost
- Brain health
- Better quality sleep
- Improved energy
- Helps with weight loss
It is important to note that zinc can interact with other minerals and supplements, so it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking zinc supplements. Let’s take a look at each of these benefits in more detail and any science-backed research for these claims.
A strong immune system is crucial for protecting the body against infection and disease. Zinc is involved in a variety of immune system functions, including the production of white blood cells and antibodies, which help fight off infection.
Studies have shown that zinc supplementation can help improve immunity in children and adults. For example, one study found that zinc supplementation reduced the incidence of pneumonia in children under the age of five.1 Another study found that zinc supplementation helped improve immunity in elderly adults.2
Zinc is involved in the healing process of wounds. It helps to form new tissue and to repair damaged tissue. Zinc also helps the body fight infection and can reduce the chances of developing scar tissue.
Studies have shown that zinc can speed up the healing process of wounds. For example, one study found that zinc-deficient rats had delayed healing after surgery. 3
Growth and Development
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in growth and development. It is required for the proper function of enzymes involved in DNA replication and transcription, which are necessary for cell growth and division. Zinc is also required for the activity of various enzymes involved in protein synthesis, which is necessary for the growth and repair of tissues.
Additionally, zinc is involved in the regulation of hormone levels, specifically in the release of growth hormone, which is necessary for growth and development.
Zinc deficiency during growth and development can lead to several problems such as stunted growth, delayed wound healing, poor immune function, and developmental delays. Children and adolescents who are zinc deficient are more likely to have poor growth and developmental delays.4
Moreover, zinc is also essential for normal fetal development, and zinc deficiency during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, developmental delays and congenital malformations.5
Taste And Smell
Zinc plays a role in the sense of taste and smell by helping to maintain the function of the taste buds and olfactory receptors in the mouth and nose. Zinc deficiency can lead to a loss of taste and smell, and supplementation with zinc has been shown to improve these senses in some individuals.
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a critical role in maintaining healthy skin. It is involved in a number of processes that are important for skin health, including wound healing, collagen production, reducing inflammation, regulating oil production, and protecting the skin from sun damage.
When it comes to wound healing, zinc helps to speed up the process by promoting cell growth and repair. Collagen, a protein that gives skin its elasticity and strength, is also produced with the help of zinc. Zinc also has anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce the redness, itching and swelling associated with various skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis.
Additionally, zinc helps regulate the production of sebum, an oily substance that is secreted by the sebaceous glands in the skin, which can prevent acne and other skin problems.6
Zinc plays an important role in protein synthesis, as it is required for the proper function of enzymes involved in DNA replication and transcription, the processes that are necessary for the synthesis of all proteins in the body. 7 Zinc is also required for the activity of RNA polymerase, an enzyme that is necessary for the transcription of DNA into RNA, which is the first step in protein synthesis.
Additionally, zinc is required for the activity of various enzymes involved in the post-transcriptional modification of RNA, which is necessary for the proper folding and function of proteins. Furthermore, zinc is also required for the activity of various enzymes involved in the translation of RNA into a protein, which is the final step in protein synthesis.
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Zinc is essential for the production of testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that plays a key role in the development of male characteristics, such as muscle mass and facial hair. Levels of naturally occurring testosterone rapidly decrease with age. From age 30 onwards, total testosterone will generally decrease at around 1.6% per year.
Zinc levels have been linked to testosterone levels in several studies. For example, one study found that men with low zinc levels had lower testosterone levels.8 Another study suggests that men consuming 30mg of zinc every day, saw an increased amount of free testosterone within the body.
Zinc is essential for brain health and plays a critical role in several processes that are important for cognitive function. Zinc is involved in neurotransmission, the process by which nerve cells communicate with each other. It is also required for the activity of various enzymes involved in the synthesis and breakdown of neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit signals between nerve cells.
Additionally, zinc is also required for the formation and function of synapses, the connections between nerve cells that allow for the transmission of signals. Studies have shown that zinc deficiency can lead to a reduction in cognitive function.9 Whereas supplementation with zinc has been shown to improve memory and learning in some individuals.
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Better Quality Sleep
Zinc has also been linked to better sleep. One study found that zinc deficiency was associated with poor sleep quality.10 When sleeping, the brain recovers and regenerates. Chemical imbalances within the brain are regulated by zinc and other minerals, such as magnesium and iron, that work together and improve the quality of sleep.
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If you are constantly feeling tired, particularly around mid-day it may be due to zinc deficiency. Although Zinc can be used to promote drowsiness and help with falling asleep more quickly it also can assist in providing more energy. One study suggests that zinc can improve cell motility and energy metabolism within the body.11
Helps With Weight Loss
Zinc has also been linked to weight loss. One study found that zinc deficiency was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI).12 Zinc helps the body process macronutrients (Carbohydrates, muscle and fat) within the body. With all of the other processes that zinc is undertaking including improved energy, more testosterone, better digestion and better sleep it is no surprise to see that those with sufficient zinc levels are less susceptible to higher levels of BMI.
What Foods Contain Zinc?
Zinc can be found naturally occurring in normal household foods. The amount of mg per serving varies between different items of food:
|Food||Mg Per Serving|
|Oysters (3 oz)||32|
|Beef Sirloin (3 oz)||3.5|
|Cereals (1 Cup)||2.3|
|Pork Chops (3 oz)||1.9|
|Turkey Breast (3 oz)||1.5|
Oysters are the most efficient source of organic zinc within a food source by a long stretch when compared with other food items. Depending on your budget and your palette, oysters are an excellent alternative to direct supplementation.
Side Effects Of Zinc
Despite all the benefits that zinc provides, if it is taken in too high a quantity it can end up having an adverse and toxic effect on the body. These side effects may include:
- Nausea & Vomiting
- Abdominal discomfort
- Loss of appetite
What Is The Optimal Zinc Dosage?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc for adult males is 11 mg and for adult females is 8 mg. However, the amount of zinc an individual should take can vary depending on factors such as age, sex, and overall health.
In general, zinc supplements should not be taken in doses higher than 40 mg daily. This higher dosage can cause side effects such as stomach upset and copper deficiency.
What Is The Best Time To Take Zinc?
The best time to take zinc supplements may vary depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. In general, it is recommended to take zinc supplements with food to help with absorption and reduce the risk of stomach upset.
Some people may prefer to take zinc in the morning with breakfast, while others may find it more convenient to take it with their evening meal.
It’s also important to note that the recommended daily intake of zinc varies based on age, sex, and other factors, so it’s important to follow the dosage instructions on the supplement label.
Can I Take Zinc Everyday?
In general, it is safe to take zinc supplements every day, but it’s important to follow the recommended dosage instructions on the supplement label.
Summary And Recommendations
By now you can see, there are many claimed benefits of zinc. Zinc is potentially one of the most efficient and inexpensive supplements available. Many of these claimed benefits are also backed by research and science. This doesn’t mean you should blindly trust them though. Be sure to do your own research before making any decisions.
- Sakulchit T, Goldman RD. Zinc supplementation for pediatric pneumonia. Can Fam Physician. 2017 Oct;63(10):763-765. PMID: 29025801; PMCID: PMC5638472.
- Haase H, Rink L. The immune system and the impact of zinc during aging. Immun Ageing. 2009 Jun 12;6:9. doi: 10.1186/1742-4933-6-9. PMID: 19523191; PMCID: PMC2702361.
- Tamada H, Nezu R, Matsuo Y, Takagi Y, Okada A, Imamura I. Zinc-deficient diet impairs adaptive changes in the remaining intestine after massive small bowel resection in the rat. Br J Surg. 1992 Sep;79(9):959-63. doi: 10.1002/bjs.1800790935. PMID: 1422769.
- Prasad AS. Zinc in growth and development and spectrum of human zinc deficiency. J Am Coll Nutr. 1988 Oct;7(5):377-84. doi: 10.1080/07315724.1988.10720255. PMID: 3053862.
- Wang H, Hu YF, Hao JH, Chen YH, Su PY, Wang Y, Yu Z, Fu L, Xu YY, Zhang C, Tao FB, Xu DX. Maternal zinc deficiency during pregnancy elevates the risks of fetal growth restriction: a population-based birth cohort study. Sci Rep. 2015 Jun 8;5:11262. doi: 10.1038/srep11262. PMID: 26053136; PMCID: PMC4459238.
Brandt S. The clinical effects of zinc as a topical or oral agent on the clinical response and pathophysiologic mechanisms of acne: a systematic review of the literature. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013 May;12(5):542-5. PMID: 23652948.
- Kimball SR, Chen SJ, Risica R, Jefferson LS, Leure-duPree AE. Effects of zinc deficiency on protein synthesis and expression of specific mRNAs in rat liver. Metabolism. 1995 Jan;44(1):126-33. doi: 10.1016/0026-0495(95)90299-6. PMID: 7854157.
- Prasad AS, Mantzoros CS, Beck FW, Hess JW, Brewer GJ. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition. 1996 May;12(5):344-8. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(96)80058-x. PMID: 8875519
- Sun R, Wang J, Feng J, Cao B. Zinc in Cognitive Impairment and Aging. Biomolecules. 2022 Jul 18;12(7):1000. doi: 10.3390/biom12071000. PMID: 35883555; PMCID: PMC9312494.
- Cherasse Y, Urade Y. Dietary Zinc Acts as a Sleep Modulator. Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Nov 5;18(11):2334. doi: 10.3390/ijms18112334. PMID: 29113075; PMCID: PMC5713303.
- Yang X, Wang H, Huang C, He X, Xu W, Luo Y, Huang K. Zinc enhances the cellular energy supply to improve cell motility and restore impaired energetic metabolism in a toxic environment induced by OTA. Sci Rep. 2017 Nov 7;7(1):14669. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-14868-x. PMID: 29116164; PMCID: PMC5676743.
- Di Martino G, Matera MG, De Martino B, Vacca C, Di Martino S, Rossi F. Relationship between zinc and obesity. J Med. 1993;24(2-3):177-83. PMID: 8409780.