Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is found in foods, can be added to others and also is available in a supplement in most stores. A trace mineral means that the body only needs small amounts. Zinc is the second-most-abundant trace mineral in your body — after iron — and is present in every cell. Zinc is considered an essential nutrient, meaning that your body can’t produce or store it. Even with the need in small amounts, it is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions. It also is a major player in the creation of DNA, growth of cells, building proteins, wound healing, and supporting a healthy immune system. Because it helps cells to grow and multiply, adequate zinc is required during times of rapid growth, such as childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy. Zinc is also needed for your senses of taste and smell. Because one of the enzymes crucial for proper taste and smell is dependent on this nutrient, a zinc deficiency can reduce your ability to taste or smell. After the discovery of zinc deficiency in the 1960s, it soon became clear that zinc is essential for the function of the immune system. We must have a daily intake of zinc to maintain a steady state because our bodies have no specialized zinc storage system.
Let’s focus on the health benefits of Zinc:
1. Accelerates Wound Healing- Zinc is commonly used in a treatment for burns, certain ulcers and other skin injuries. This mineral plays critical roles in collagen synthesis, immune function and inflammatory response for proper healing. A fact is your skin holds about 5% of your body’s zinc content. A zinc deficiency can slow wound healing and supplementing with zinc can speed recovery of wounds. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/zinc#benefits
2. May Reduce the Risk of Certain Age-Related Diseases- such as pneumonia, infection and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Zinc may improve immune response by boosting white blood cell production to make natural killer cells, T-lymphocytes, and B-lymphocytes for support of a healthy immune response.
3. Immune importance- zinc help protect your body from infection. Older adults who supplement with zinc experience improved influenza vaccination response, reduced risk of pneumonia and boosted mental performance. The significance of the essential trace element zinc for immune function has been known for several decades. Zinc deficiency affects immune cells, resulting in altered host defense, increased risk of inflammation, and even death. The micronutrient zinc is important for maintenance and development of immune cells of both the innate And adaptive immune system. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0003986116300741?via%3Dihub
Dr Todd Pesek, MD states in article -BUILD IMMUNITY WITH ZINC- “Zinc plays a star role in protecting against viral infections. Think of it as a big bodyguard with bulging muscles of steel. When a virus enters your body, its goal is to use your cellular machinery to copy itself, but zinc directly blocks this viral replication.” He goes on to say- “So you see, taking zinc once a virus has already invaded your body is sort of like fastening your seatbelt after the accident. The smart strategy is to be proactive versus reactive through regular supplementation and a diet abundant in zinc-rich plant foods.”
4. Help Treat Acne -which is a common skin disease that is estimated to affect up to 9.4% of the world population. Acne is caused by obstruction of oil-producing glands, bacteria and inflammation. Studies suggest that both topical and oral zinc treatments can effectively treat acne by reducing inflammation, inhibiting the growth of P. acnes bacteria and suppressing oily gland activity. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20510767/ People with acne tend to have lower levels of zinc. A zinc rich diet and supplements may help reduce symptoms.
5. Decreases Inflammation- Zinc decreases oxidative stress and reduces levels of certain inflammatory proteins in your body. Oxidative stress leads to chronic inflammation, a factor in many chronic illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and mental. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2869512/
6. Age-related macular degeneration- Research suggests that oral zinc might slow the progression of this eye diseases
7. Zinc as an antidepressant- It turns out that zinc plays a part in modulating the brain and body’s response to stress. The highest amount of zinc in the body is found in our brains, particularly in a part of our brains called the hippocampus. Zinc deficiency can lead to symptoms of depression, ADHD, difficulties with learning and memory, seizures, aggression, and violence. In humans, zinc has been found to be low in the serum of those suffering from depression. In fact, the more depressed someone is, the lower the zinc level. Zinc supplementation has been shown to have antidepressant effects in humans, and successful treatment with antidepressants will increase serum zinc levels. For those of you wanting more in-depth information please go to the cited article by Dr Emily Deans, MD in Psychology Today article Zinc: An Antidepressant the essential mineral for resiliency.
Recommended Amounts of Zinc:
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults 19+ years is 11 mg a day for men and 8 mg for women. Pregnancy and lactation require slightly more at 11 mg and 12 mg, respectively.
For specific age and RDA see the blog for table:
Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Zinc  Recommended intakes of nutrients vary by age and sex and are known as Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs)
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
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
Great food sources of zinc:
-Meat- Red meat is a particularly great source, but great amounts can be found in all different kinds of meat, including beef, lamb, bison and pork. 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of raw ground beef contains 4.8 mg of zinc, which is 44% of the Daily Value (DV). Poultry: Turkey and chicken
Daily Value- help consumers determine the level of various nutrients in a standard serving of food in relation to their approximate requirement for it. A DV is often, but not always, similar to one’s RDA. DV is selected for the labels of dietary supplements and foods. The label actually provides the %DV so that you can see how much (what percentage) a serving of the product contributes to reaching the DV.
- Shellfish are healthy, low-calorie sources of zinc. Shellfish: Oysters, crab, mussels, lobster and clams. Oysters contain particularly high amounts, with 6 medium oysters providing 32 mg, or 291% of the DV. Other types of shellfish contain less zinc than oysters but are still good sources. Alaskan crab contains 7.6 mg per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), which is 69% of the DV. Smaller shellfish like shrimp and mussels are also good sources, both containing 14% of the DV per 100 grams (3.5 ounces). Fish- Flounder, sardines, salmon and sole
- Legumes-lima bean, edamame chickpeas, lentils and beans all contain substantial amounts of zinc. 100 grams (3/4 cup) of cooked lentils contain around 12% of the DV. However, legumes also contain phytates that inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals. So, zinc from legumes isn’t as well absorbed as the zinc from animal products. Despite this, they can be an important source of zinc for people following vegan or vegetarian diets. They are also an excellent source of protein and fiber and can be easily added to soups, stews and salads.
- Seeds- are a healthy addition to your diet and can help increase your zinc intake. Some seeds are better choices than others like squash, pumpkin, flax seeds and sesame seeds.
- Nuts- Eating pine nuts, peanuts, Brazil nuts, pecans and almonds can boost your intake of zinc. If you’re looking for a nut high in zinc, cashews are a good choice. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving contains 15% of the DV.
- Dairy- Milk and cheese are two great sources for they contain high amounts of bioavailable zinc, meaning most of the zinc in these foods can be absorbed by your body. 100 grams (1/2 cup) of cheddar cheese contains about 28% of the DV, while a single cup of full-fat milk contains around 9%.
- Eggs- contain a moderate amount of zinc and can help you meet your daily target. 1 large egg contains around 5% of the DV.
- Whole grains: Oats, quinoa, brown rice and sprouted bread are the best sources of zinc. Remember, grains contain phytates, which bind to zinc and reduce its absorption.
- Certain fruits and vegetables: Mushrooms, kale, peas, asparagus and beet greens, spinach, dandelion greens. Most vegetables are poor sources of zinc, but some contain moderate amounts and can contribute to your daily needs, especially if you don’t eat meat. Fruits- avocados, blackberries and pomegranates
-certain foods — such as ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, snack bars and baking flours — are fortified with zinc
- dark chocolate- a small square will do
Summary- The best way to make sure you are getting enough is to eat a varied diet with good sources of zinc, such as meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy.
Zinc is available in supplement form as pills and lozenges. Oral zinc supplements might benefit people with low levels of zinc or poor dietary intake. Supplements contain several forms of zinc, including zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate. I would look for absorbable forms such as zinc citrate or zinc gluconate. Stay away from zinc oxide, which is poorly absorbed. The tolerable upper level for zinc is 40 mg per day. However, this does not apply to people with zinc deficiencies, who may need to take high-dose supplements. This will be determined by a doctor.
Topical Zinc- If your acne is mild and you’re getting enough dietary zinc, you may consider topical products. Always do a patch test to assess your risk for allergic reaction. Today, zinc oxide is still a popular over-the-counter treatment skin treatment. It can defend against sunburns by reflecting and scattering ultraviolet rays so they do not penetrate the skin. It is also used to treat inflamed skin conditions like burns, eczema, bedsores, and diaper rash. The compound forms a protective barrier on the skin’s surface, repelling away moisture and allowing the skin to heal. It may also aid enzymes to break down damaged collagen tissue so that new tissue can be formed. No negative side effects have been reported. Talk to your dermatologist about the best form for you.
Possible interactions happen if you are on an Antibiotic or take the drug Penicillamine. Taking zinc at least two hours before or after taking the drugs will help the drugs work more efficiently. If you take Thiazide diuretics, these blood pressure drugs increase the amount of zinc lost in urine. Overdosing on zinc supplements can lead to gastrointestinal effects very much like those from too much dietary zinc. Too much zinc could also put you at risk for neurological effects such as weakness and numbness in your extremities. Check with a healthcare provider for their recommendations.
Maintaining Zinc Levels as We Age
Several studies have found the elderly to be at risk for zinc deficiency. Fewer than half of older adults in the United States consume adequate zinc. Research suggests that, especially for older people, maintaining an adequate zinc status may be of particular importance for preventing pneumonia. In a study of older adults in nursing homes, those with normal serum zinc had a lower incidence of pneumonia and half as many antibiotic prescriptions compared to those with low serum zinc. Studies involving older people supplementing with zinc suggest that improving zinc status improves immune system function and resistance to infection. Our immunity starts to diminish around ages 60 to 65. For those who are not eating an optimal diet to strengthen their immune function, start today and tell your friends about this podcast. But even those who are eating a proper diet you still may need a zinc supplementation to boost an aging immune system. https://www.verywellhealth.com/surprising-immunity-benefits-of-zinc-4047431
In Summary today:
Zinc is an essential mineral and is important for maintaining good health. I cannot emphasize enough the role of zinc as a gatekeeper to your immune function. Zinc supports your immune system by helping to fight off certain microbes, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, a type of bacteria that causes the dangerous lung disease, pneumonia. Zinc is able to block the pathway these bacteria use to take in nutrients, essentially starving the bacteria and making it easier for your immune cells to kill them. Daily, we must eat a variety of good sources of zinc, such as meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy. Red meat and oysters are the richest dietary sources of zinc. If you’re worried that you’re not getting enough zinc through your diet, speak to your healthcare provider about the possibility of taking a supplement. Supplements are inexpensive and available online, in most supermarkets and drug stores. Maintaining your zinc status could be a key to living a long, healthier life by optimizing the function of your immune system, helping in wound healing, reducing the risk of Certain Age-Related Diseases, decreasing inflammation and improve acne symptoms.