It is thought that zinc supplementation can help skin conditions such as acne and eczema, prostate problems, anorexia nervosa, alcoholics and those suffering from trauma or post-surgery.It is always better to seek the advice of an expert before taking any supplements. If you choose to take a zinc supplement you should not need more than the daily recommended amount unless medical advice says otherwise.
Only 20% of the zinc present in the diet is actually absorbed by the body. Dietary fibre and phytic acid, found in bran, wholegrain cereals, pulses and nuts, inhibit zinc absorption. Phytic acid forms a highly insoluble complex with zinc, which the body cannot absorb. Cooking processes can reduce the adverse effects of both phytic acid and dietary fibre on zinc absorption. Baking can destroy over half the phytic acid in whole meal bread.
Sources of zinc
Zinc is present in a wide variety of foods, particularly in association with protein foods. A vegetarian diet often contains less zinc than a meat based diet and so it is important for vegetarians to eat plenty of foods that are rich in this vital mineral.
Good sources for vegetarians include dairy products, beans and lentils, yeast, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals. Pumpkin seeds provide one of the most concentrated vegetarian food sources of zinc.
Benefits of zinc
It plays a crucial role in growth and cell division where it is required for protein and DNA synthesis, in insulin activity, in the metabolism of the ovaries and testes, and in liver function.
As a component of many enzymes, zinc is involved in the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and energy.
It is necessary for a healthy immune system, and is also of use in fighting skin problems such as acne, boils and sore throats.
It is further needed for cell division, and is needed by the tissue of the hair, nails and skin to be in top form.
Zinc is further used in the growth and maintenance of muscles.
Children, for normal growth and sexual development also require zinc.
It also seems as if zinc helps to control the oil glands, and is also required for the synthesis of protein and collagen – which is great for wound healing and a healthy skin.
Deficiency of zinc
There is a shortage of zinc in many people’s diet, since zinc is destroyed in the milling process and is also lost in cooking.
Other symptoms of zinc deficiency can include hair loss, diarrhoea, fatigue, delayed wound healing, and decreased growth rate and mental development in infants.
A deficiency will result in an under-performing immune system, open to infections, allergies, night blindness, loss of smell, falling hair, white spots under finger nails, skin problems, sleep disturbances etc.
Men with zinc shortage may have a problem with fertility, while women may experience irregular periods. Children with too little zinc may have stunted growth and slow sexual maturity.
With too little in the body, the sense of smell might suffer, as well as your sense of taste.
Symptoms of high intake
Elevated intake of zinc (1- 2 gram per day) over an extended period can actually harm immune system instead of assisting it. Intake of zinc should be kept to under 100 mg per day as larger amounts may result in nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness and hallucinations.
If one wants to take a zinc supplement, rather take it at night on an empty stomach, as zinc can interfere with the absorption of other minerals such as copper and iron. In a multi-vitamin situation, make sure that the zinc and iron is nearly in the same amounts.
Large intakes of zinc can cause nausea and diarrhea
When more is needed
Men should always ensure enough zinc in their diets, since the health of their prostate gland is linked to zinc. Zinc is needed to manufacture testosterone and a shortage may induce a low sperm count, loss of libido and other emotional problems. Zinc may also be helpful in fighting infection and inflammation of the prostate gland in older men. It is lost on ejaculation, since sperm needs this mineral to swim towards the egg.
If a women is taking a birth control pill, or receiving hormone replacement therapy, extra zinc may be indicated, and all vegans and vegetarians should also consider their zinc intake, as well as people suffering from psoriasis and women while pregnant or lactating.
People consuming large amounts of alcohol may also be at risk of lowered zinc levels
The RNI (Reference Nutrient Intake) is the amount of nutrient, which is enough for at least 97% of the population.
In the case of microelements, such as trace elements, the amounts are very small, yet they are still important.