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What does Zinc do?

 What does zinc do?

 

The second most abundant trace mineral in the body, zinc is exceedingly important for many biochemical and cellular functions. Not only does this mineral facilitate the activity of over 300 enzymes that support nerve function, metabolism, digestion, and numerous other processes, but it also plays a critical role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, and gene expression (1).

Zinc is an essential nutrient, which means your body can’t produce it naturally or even store it. As such, you need a regular and reliable intake through your diet. Fortunately, zinc can be found in a range of both animal and plant foods. Supplementation is also an effective insurance policy to cover any nutritional shortfalls.

Here, we take a look at zinc’s role in the body and how best to optimise your intake to support overall health.

 

What does zinc do for the body?

Immune Function

According to empirical data, zinc may help to activate the immune system’s T-cells (2). Besides controlling and regulating immune responses, T-cells also attack infected cells. A deficiency, therefore, may compromise and impair your immune function, increasing your susceptibility to pathogens (3).

A 2016 study reported that a moderate 4mg increase in zinc daily might support the health of cells, thereby improving the body’s ability to fight disease and infection (4). The findings purported that zinc may reduce oxidative stress and DNA damage.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that zinc is often recommended for the common cold. In a 2011 review, researchers found that administering zinc within 24 hours of symptoms many reduce the severity and duration of the common cold in healthy people (5).

Wound Healing

Since zinc is involved in immune function, inflammatory responses, and collagen synthesis – collagen being the most abundant protein in the body – it’s also vital for proper wound healing, especially because the skin holds about 5 per cent of your entire body’s zinc content (6). As such, zinc is emerging as a promising choice for ulcers, burns, and other skin injuries amongst the scientific community.

In 2004, researchers published a study that investigated the possibility of using serum zinc levels as a predictive tool for delayed wound healing in 97 patients that had recently undergone hip surgery. The authors found that thirty participants with delayed healing also had lower zinc levels compared to the control group (7). They hypothesised that low zinc levels might predict delayed wound healing and proposed using zinc supplementation for patients undergoing elective surgery.

Skin Health

That zinc is one of the most widely researched forms of acne treatment demonstrates its benefits for skin health (8). Acne is characterised by the occurrence of red pimples on the skin, particularly on the face, due to infected sebaceous glands. Zinc is believed to support the reduction of the irritation, redness and scarring associated with moderate-to-severe acne.

In a 2012 study, researchers found that zinc supplementation may help bacterial and inflammatory forms of acne (9). Data suggests that zinc may suppress oily gland activity and prevent the growth of P.acnes bacteria (10).

Fertility

It’s also worth noting that zinc may help to maintain normal reproductive health in both men and women. For women, zinc plays a crucial role in fertilization, DNA regulation, oocyte division, and embryo development (11). And for men, zinc is essential for healthy sperm formation (12).

What are the symptoms of low zinc?

Though rare, a severe zinc deficiency can occur in people suffering from alcoholism, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, those struggling with disordered eating, vegetarians and vegans, and people with chronic kidney disease or gastrointestinal diseases, like Crohn’s disease.

Decreased immunity, thinning hair, loss of appetite, dry skin, impaired wound healing, mood disturbances, diarrhoea, and fertility issues can be the first signs of a zinc deficiency (13).

What are the symptoms of low zinc?

Fortunately, a wide range of plant and animal foods deliver high levels of zinc, meaning most people should get enough through their diet. You can find a rich source of zinc in the following foods:

  • Dairy products: cheese, milk, yoghurt

  • Legumes: black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas

  • Whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, oats

  • Nuts and seeds: hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews

  • Meat: lamb, beef, pork

  • Poultry: chicken, turkey

  • Fish: salmon sardines

  • Shellfish: oysters, mussels, clams, mussels, lobster

  • Fortified cereals

  • Some vegetables: peas, asparagus, kale, mushrooms

  • Eggs

How much zinc do you need per day?

According to official guidelines, the recommended daily amount of zinc changes depending on your sex and age (14):

For girls and women:

  • Ages 4-6: 6.5mg

  • Ages 7-10: 7mg

  • Ages 11-14: 9mg

  • Ages 15-75+: 7mg

For boys and men:

  • Ages 4-6: 6.5mg

  • Ages 7-10: 7mg

  • Ages 11-14: 9mg

  • Ages 15-75+: 9.5mg

How best to supplement with zinc?

When it comes to supplementing with zinc, always look for zinc citrate because the body absorbs it better.

Single zinc supplements

With a high potency formula, a quality zinc citrate supplement is a great option if you want to optimise your intake. Our Zinc 15mg delivers 15mg, a level often recommended by nutritionists to complement most diets.

Multivitamins

Multivitamins are an excellent way to get a comprehensive spread of nutrients to support all areas of your health. Many of our multivitamins – namely Multi-Max? Complete, Multi-Guard? Balance, and Multi-Guard? Active – deliver an impressive 15mg of zinc.

Zinc lozenges

Zinc lozenges are a tasty, convenient and well-absorbed source of zinc. Each of our Tasty Zinc Lozenges contains zinc, vitamin C and bee propolis which may be helpful at the first sign of a cold.

Enjoyed this article? You can discover even more supplementation advice on our blog.

References:

  1. , , Designing hydrolytic zinc metalloenzymes. Biochemistry. ;53(6):957-978.

  2. , Zinc signals promote IL-2-dependent proliferation of T cells. Eur J Immunol. ;40(5):1496-1503.

  3. , , Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr. ;68(2 Suppl): 447S-463S.

  4. , A moderate increase in dietary zinc reduces DNA strand breaks in leukocytes and alters plasma proteins without changing plasma zinc concentrations. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. ;105(2):343-351.

  5. , , Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. ;(2): CD001364.

  6. , Zinc in Wound Healing Modulation. Nutrients. ;10(1):16.

  7. , Low serum zinc level as a predictive factor of delayed wound healing in total hip replacement. Wound Repair and Regeneration. ;14(2):119-122.

  8. , Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatology research and practice. ;2014:709152.

  9. , , Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: A Review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. ;5(5):32-40.

  10. , Correlation between the severity and type of acne lesions with serum zinc levels in patients with acne vulgaris. BioMed research international. ;2014:474108.

  11. (11) American Physiological Society. "Preconception zinc deficiency could spell bad news for fertility: Micronutrient availability can have early and long-lasting effects on egg quality." ScienceDaily. 24 April 2018. Available online: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/04/180424133639.htm

  12. . Zinc: A small molecule with a big impact on sperm function. PLOS Biology. ;16(6): e2006204.

  13. , , Zinc: an essential micronutrient. American family physician. ;79(9):768-772.

  14. (14) Public Health England. 2020. Government Dietary Recommendations Government Recommendations For Energy And Nutrients For Males And Females Aged 1 – 18 Years And 19+ Years. Available online: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/618167/government_dietary_recommendations.pdf





 

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Disclaimer: The information presented by Nature's Best is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications.

 
 
Our Author - Keri Filtness

Keri

Keri Filtness has worked in the Nutrition Industry for 19 years. She is regularly called upon for her professional comments on health and nutrition related news. Her opinions have been featured by BBC3, Prima, Vitality, The Mirror, Woman’s Own and Cycling Weekly, amongst others. She has also worked one to one with journalists, analysing their diets and health concerns and recommending changes and additions, where appropriate.

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