Zinc Sources and Functions
All of the nutrient minerals work together to keep you healthy and feeling good. Here is a summary of the role of zinc, a trace mineral, in your good health.
|What it does||Growth and development; neurological, reproductive and immune function|
|Daily needs||[Infants: 2-3 mg][Children: 3-11 mg] [Men: 11 mg] [Women: 8 mg] [Pregnancy: 11-12 mg][Lactation: 12-13 mg]|
|Not enough||Loss of appetite; hair loss; skin and eye problems; susceptibility to illness Severe: Dwarfism|
|Too Much||May cause deficiency of copper and iron; lowered immunity; poor appetite; nausea; vomiting|
|Foods||Protein foods, fortified foods|
*The lower value is for infants up to 6 mos., higher value is for infants up to a year old.
† The first value is for children 1-3 with the amount increasing until age 18.
So many functions
Zinc is part of so many functions in the body that it is difficult to name them all, and those are just the ones we know about. Although it is a trace element, meaning you don’t need a large amount, zinc is involved in major processes throughout your body, including, but not limited to, the following:
(1) Production of hemoglobin that carries oxygen to your body.
(2) Part of DNA and RNA, the genetic material that makes you what you are.
(3) Antioxidant function that helps rid you of free radicals
(4) Liver functions, including the release of Vitamin A and metabolism of alcohol
(5) Part of the structure of your cell membranes
(6) Reproductive health, including sperm production and fetal health
(7) Healing and immune function
(8) Learning ability and performance in school
(9) How your food tastes
(10) Insulin production
(11) Blood clotting
(12) Nervous system function
Foods high in protein are the best sources of zinc. These include the following:
Meat… Seafood… Yogurt… Cheese… Eggs… Sunflower seeds… Pinto beans… Cashews… Almonds… Peanut butter… Garbanzo beans… Whole grains…
Some foods, such as cereals, are fortified with zinc, but this form is less available for absorption due to the presence of binders that keep some of the zinc from being absorbed.
As with most nutrient minerals, zinc deficiency is not common in developed countries and is generally associated with poverty and inadequate nutrition or with a genetic disorder that affects zinc absorption.
Children are particularly vulnerable to deficiency, since their rapid growth and development requires a steady supply of zinc.
Older adults and strict vegetarians are also susceptible to zinc deficiency.
Severe zinc deprivation can lead to a disorder known as dwarfism, where the individual fails to reach normal height and physical maturation.
Zinc can be toxic in high doses, so be aware of the dosage if you take a supplement. Prolonged zinc toxicity can lead to copper and iron deficiency and to heart problems.
Interaction with Medications
Zinc supplements can interact with medication and certain medications can affect zinc absorption. Consult with your doctor and pharmacist if you take medications to find out the possible interactions and nutritional concerns.
Upper Level for Zinc Sources and Functions
The upper intake level for adults for zinc that has been established is 40 mg per day.