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The Importance of Zinc in the Body

Aug 31, 2009

Zinc is an essential mineral that stimulates the activity of about 100 enzymes in the body. It also:

  • supports your healthy immune system
  • is necessary to synthesize DNA
  • is essential for wound healing.
  • supports the healthy growth and development of the body during adolescence, childhood and pregnancy.

Though the actual amount of zinc necessary to support the human body is quite small, its effects on the body are astronomical.

Sources of Zinc

Zinc is present in a variety of foods that many people consume daily. The food with the most zinc per serving is oysters, but most Americans receive the greatest portion of their zinc intake from red meat and poultry. Some other food sources that contain zinc are some seafood, whole grains, fortified cereals, beans, nuts and dairy products.

The absorption of zinc tends to be higher in diets high in animal protein, as opposed to those rich in plant protein. An element present in whole grains, breads, cereals and legumes called phytate can also work to decrease zinc absorption.

Zinc Deficiencies

Generally, when someone is suffering from a zinc deficiency, it is because the intake is inadequate, because it is being poorly absorbed into the body or their need for zinc increases.

A zinc deficiency can be identified by:

  • growth retardation
  • diarrhea
  • hair loss
  • delayed sexual maturation and impotence
  • loss of appetite
  • eye and skin lesions
  • white spots on the fingernails

Because many of these symptoms are general and can be associated with so many medical conditions, you should consult with your doctor if you are suffering from any or a combination of these symptoms.  

Zinc and the Human Body

In an average human body, there is about 2 to 3 grams of zinc. Most of this is found in the muscle tissue and the bone. Generally, most adults do not require zinc supplementation if they eat a healthy diet with vegetables, fruit and some protein sources.

Males require more zinc than women, as the mineral is released when a man ejaculates. The more sexually active a male, the more zinc that is required, as semen has the highest levels of zinc in the body.

Zinc Recommendations

An average adult woman should consume about 7 milligrams of zinc daily, while an average male should be consuming 9.5 milligrams daily. The risk for women to have a zinc deficiency is much greater than a man, especially if they are malnourished because of an eating disorder or when they are breastfeeding.

If you are concerned about your zinc intake, taking a good multivitamin should be sufficient. Be sure to only take the recommended daily dose, as zinc overdoses can also occur, which can be toxic to the body. Consuming too much zinc can cause nausea, vomiting and fever because too much of the mineral can interfere with how the body processes other minerals.

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