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    What is Zinc? Benefits, Dosage, and Risks

    What is Zinc? Benefits, Dosage, and Risks
    October 20, 2023 Vitality Pro

    What is Zinc? Zinc Benefits, Dosage, and Risks

    Zinc is a trace mineral that has a widespread reputation for supporting a number of critical processes in the human body. Many people reach for a zinc supplement when they are feeling ill or suspect that they may have a viral infection. But this mineral plays a role in many other aspects of health and wellness, too.

    Along with the most commonly known zinc benefits, like immune system support, the mineral is required as a co-factor in well over 300 separate enzymes and enzymatic processes in humans. Research also shows that taking a zinc supplement can promote optimal blood glucose levels, enhance skin, eye, and cardiovascular health, support reproductive health, and more.

    In this article, we will explore the most notable zinc benefits, share scientific evidence on the effects of taking a zinc supplement for health, and explore possible side effects and risks.

    Disclaimer: This guide should not replace professional medical advice. To ensure you stay safe, always speak to a medical professional before starting any supplemental regime or making dietary changes.

    What is Zinc?

    In terms of chemistry, Zinc is a chemical element (Zn) represented by the atomic number 30. It presents as a shiny, grey, and brittle metal at room temperature and when oxidation has been removed.

    Zinc also plays a vital role in human health and nutrition. It is considered an essential nutrient. This means that the body cannot produce or store zinc in its tissues, so it must be ingested through dietary means or in the form of a zinc supplement. Zinc is used for a variety of processes in the human body, such as:

    • Enzyme reactions 
    • Immune function 
    • Gene expression 
    • DNA and protein synthesis
    • Development, growth
    • Wound healing
    • Tissue repair

    The trace mineral is the second most abundant in the human body, after iron, and it plays a role in every cell. Not only does Zinc support the processes mentioned above, but it is also needed to maintain your sense of smell and taste, as the enzymes critical to these senses depend on a consistent source of dietary zinc. 

    One research paper from 2013 titled, ‘Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review’ outlines the many roles that the mineral plays in health across all stages of life. The paper notes that pregnant and lactating women, infants, children, and adolescents have higher zinc requirements than adults and are at heightened risk for zinc depletion. They’re also at higher risk for dysfunctions of the epidermal, immune, skeletal, gastrointestinal, and reproductive systems, all of which stem from zinc deficiencies.

    Health Benefits

    What is zinc good for, what does zinc do for the body, and how does a zinc deficiency affect the body? Zinc offers a wide range of health benefits supported by science. 

    While positive results have been achieved in trials, more human research is needed in order to fully understand the health promoting mechanisms of zinc supplementation. 

    Immunity

    Zinc strengthens the immune system by facilitating the signalling and function of immune cells. Zinc supplements can stimulate specific immune cells to function optimally against a wide range of pathogens while also limiting oxidative stress and inflammation to enhance immune function

    One review of seven studies notes that 80-92mg of zinc per day could shorten the duration of the common cold by as much as 33%. Other studies show that zinc supplementation reduces the risk of infection while stimulating immune responses in senior adults.

    Age-Related Conditions

    Research indicates that zinc can notably reduce your risk of developing age-related diseases, including macular degeneration, infections, and pneumonia. Researchers believe that the mineral achieves this by reducing oxidative stress and improving immune response via the activation of natural killer cells and T-cells.

    Some research notes that senior adults who supplemented with zinc noticed improvements in their responses to influenza vaccines, along with a lower risk of pneumonia. Other studies found that zinc supplementation improved cognitive performance in these older adults. Moreover, a study published in 2013 found that people who took daily antioxidant supplements along with 80mg of zinc successfully decreased their vision loss and reduced their risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.

    Wound Healing

    Zinc is widely used in medical settings to treat ulcers, skin injuries, skin pathologies, and burns. The mineral aids in collagen synthesis, inflammatory modulation, and immune function; three processes that are vital for adequate wound healing.

    Zinc supplementation seems to speed up wound recovery in patients, while deficiencies can slow the healing process. One 12-week study of 60 diabetic patients with ulcers on their feet found that the patients who received 50mg of zinc per day noted significant reductions in the size of their ulcers compared to the control group.

    Skin Healing and Acne

    Acne is one of the world’s most common skin diseases, affecting an estimated 10% of the world’s population. The condition is caused by a combination of sebum overproduction, bacterial colonies on the skin, and chronic inflammation. 

    Some research suggests that both zinc supplements and topical zinc treatments can reduce acne by limiting inflammation, preventing the growth of the P. acnes bacteria on the epidermis, and reducing the activity of sebaceous glands. Moreover, researchers have found that people who suffer from acne tend to have lower levels of zinc than those without the condition. Supplementation can treat possible deficiencies and help to improve skin health and healing.

    Inflammation

    Inflammation is commonly known as the root of all diseases. Although it is a natural process intended to accelerate healing and regeneration, chronic, low-grade inflammation can increase your risk for developing a range of health conditions and age-related diseases, including type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.

    Studies show that zinc can lower oxidative stress and reduce levels of some inflammatory proteins in the human body. In one research paper on 40 senior adults, those who supplemented with 45mg of zinc per day noted more significant reductions in key inflammatory markers than members of the placebo group.

    Age-Related Macular Degeneration

    Age-related macular degeneration is one of the primary causes of vision loss in the world. Zinc supplements are often recommended as an intervention to slow the progression of AMD and protect against vision loss and the risk of permanent blindness.

    A study of 72 patients found that those who took 50mg of zinc sulfate each day for 90 days experienced slowed progression of their macular degeneration. With that said, other studies have cautioned that zinc alone may not be able to drastically improve vision outcomes and should be combined with other methods of treatment for enhanced results. More research is needed to assess exactly how zinc affects AMD and to what extent it can be used as a treatment modality.

    Blood Glucose Management

    Zinc is renowned for its important role in blood sugar and diabetes management. The hormone insulin transports glucose from the bloodstream to the tissues and cells, and some data suggests that healthy zinc levels could help to maintain stable blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity, lowering the risk of type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

    Another review notes that zinc deficiency symptoms could be linked to impaired blood sugar control and the development of diabetes. Further studies suggest that zinc supplementation can effectively reduce insulin resistance, aiding in the maintenance of normal blood sugar levels and post-prandial insulin responses.

    Cardiovascular Health

    Heart disease accounts for around 33% of global deaths, making it one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Some data shows that zinc supplementation can improve a variety of heart disease risk factors, as well as reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

    One review of 24 scientific studies found that supplementation reduced levels of total and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels in the blood, potentially helping to protect supplementers against heart disease. Another review found that zinc could lower systolic blood pressure levels, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.

    One review of 24 scientific studies found that supplementation reduced levels of total and LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol levels in the blood, potentially helping to protect supplementers against heart disease. Another review found that zinc could lower systolic blood pressure levels, although more research is needed to confirm these findings.

    Zinc Benefits for Women

    Research suggests that zinc can benefit women’s health in a number of key ways. Some research indicates that zinc supplementation can rebalance levels of oestrogen and progesterone in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. It can also exert antiandrogenic activities to address PCOS complications such as acne, insulin resistance, and high lipid profiles.

    Other studies have noted that zinc can increase the number of binding sites on women’s progesterone receptors. This helps to increase total progesterone levels and balance the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, which are primarily driven by high, unopposed levels of oestrogen.

    Zinc could also be beneficial in reducing anxiety. Zinc deficiencies could lead to dysfunction in the actions of neurotransmitters like glutamate and GABA, which control nerve cell signalling to maintain the function of the nervous system and keep chronic anxiety in check. Zinc’s anti-inflammatory properties can also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, promoting improved quality of life and reductions in pain and discomfort.

    The mineral can also assist with optimising fertility and egg quality in women. Zinc’s ability to increase progesterone levels while limiting androgens can assist with egg maturation and conception rates. Addressing zinc deficiencies may reduce the risk of miscarriage, placental inflammation, preterm deliveries, and neural tube defects.

    Zinc Benefits for Men

    Zinc also offers a host of health benefits for men, particularly when it comes to testosterone production and fertility. Research from 1996 shows a clear link between zinc levels and testosterone levels in men. The study provided young men with a low zinc diet and measured their testosterone levels after 20 weeks of the diet. The researchers found that there was a decrease of nearly 75% in the men’s testosterone levels.

    The study explored zinc levels in senior men, showing that as seniors increased their intake of zinc, their testosterone levels rose by almost 100%. Another study on fertility notes that sense of smell – which plays an important role in libido, particularly in younger men – can be diminished by zinc deficiency. Not only can zinc deficiency reduce testosterone levels. It may also cause losses in men’s ability to detect arousal-inducing pheromones.

    Zinc supplements may be able to reduce erectile dysfunction in men. Many cases of ED are caused by factors like injuries, stress, diabetes, heart disease, and nervous system dysfunction.  But some are also caused by low testosterone levels and hypogonadism. According to Healthline, zinc deficiency can drive both of the latter conditions and as testosterone naturally declines with age, supplementation may positively impact both libido and overall health markers.

    What Foods Contain Zinc? Sources and Forms

    Zinc is found in a wide range of dietary sources. Foods high in zinc include red meats such as beef, lamb, and pork, shellfish, legumes, pumpkin and sesame seeds, peanuts and tree nuts, and dairy products. Other zinc foods in the human diet are whole grains like oats, barley, quinoa, eggs, and certain zinc rich foods like sweet potatoes and leafy green vegetables. Dark chocolate also contains a notable amount of zinc, although it should be eaten in moderation as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

    This mineral is available in supplement form too, and zinc supplements come in many different formats and with different active ingredients. Some of the most widely sold forms of zinc supplements include those containing zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, and zinc orotate. Some of the most bio-available and best-absorbed forms include zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, and zinc citrate. Forms like zinc gluconate and zinc acetate are more frequently used in lozenges and preparations for treating colds and influenza cases.

    You may also find a range of zinc and magnesium supplements for sale. This combination of minerals offers unique health benefits, as when taken in the right concentrations, magnesium may assist the body in regulating its zinc levels. Many athletes take a combination of zinc and magnesium to relieve muscle tension, accelerate recovery, and improve their strength and performance.

    Zinc oxide sunscreen also contains a form of zinc but should not be used as a supplement. Zinc oxide may only be used externally, but is a highly effective sunscreen agent that also shows promise in treating acne and certain skin infections.

    Usage and Recommended Dosage

    The dosage of zinc you should take will depend on your current health status, your dietary intake, and the form of supplement you select. Supplements can contain varying amounts of zinc, and some forms are absorbed more efficiently than others. For instance, Healthline notes that zinc sulfate supplements contain 23% elemental zinc, meaning that 22mg of this supplement will provide roughly 50mg of zinc. Many zinc supplements also contain complementary minerals such as magnesium or copper to aid absorption and utilisation in the body.

    Check the elemental amounts listed on the labels of your supplements to determine how many tablets you should meet to fulfill your daily requirements. The recommended daily dose for adults is around 15-30mg of elemental zinc. Bear in mind that you may already be consuming zinc as part of a healthy diet that contains grains, seeds, nuts, dairy products, legumes, and meat. Excess zinc consumption could lead to some unwanted side effects, so it is advised to stay within the daily upper limit of 40mg. Speak to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimes or making any significant changes to your diet or physical activity levels.

    Potential Side Effects and Interactions

    Zinc supplements are generally considered to be safe and effective when used as directed. However, supplementation can result in the development of certain side effects, especially if the recommended daily dosage for your age group and needs is exceeded. Zinc supplements may cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, gastrointestinal upset, and diarrhoea in some people. People who exceed the limit of 40mg elemental zinc per day can also experience flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, cough, headaches, and fever.

    Supplementing with zinc may also limit the body’s ability to effectively absorb copper, leading to a potential risk of deficiency. Supplements may interfere with the efficacy of some antibiotics and other drugs like Penicillamine and Thiazide if they are taken together. Lower your risk of side effects by adhering to recommended dosages and always following the advice of a medical professional. If you do experience any unwanted side effects during supplementation, consult your doctor for guidance.

    Conclusion

    Zinc is an essential trace mineral that every human body needs to function at its peak and perform over 300 of its most vital processes. Scientific research shows that zinc and zinc supplements may be able to improve the functioning of your immune system, treat skin conditions like acne, reduce inflammation (including chronic inflammation), and support the heart of your health. Zinc can also lower your risk of type II diabetes and metabolic disease and aid in both men’s and women’s health and fertility levels.

    If you are considering starting a zinc supplement regime, be sure to speak with your doctor or a qualified medical professional first to identify the right forms and dosages for your needs. Seek out high quality, third-party lab-tested supplements such as those offered by Vitality Pro to ensure that your supplements are as effective and health-supporting as possible.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the best zinc supplement to take?

    Zinc picolinate is generally considered to be the most bio-available form of supplemental zinc available. Other effective forms of zinc include zinc citrate and zinc gluconate.

    Is zinc safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and children?

    Speak to your doctor before using any zinc supplements if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or thinking about giving a child these supplements. A medical professional can advise you on the correct dosages to take to meet your needs without exceeding your recommended daily dose.

    Can zinc boost testosterone levels?

    Research shows that zinc can significantly improve testosterone levels, both in young and adult men and in senior men.

    Is zinc good for women’s health?

    Zinc can benefit women’s health by increasing progesterone production, reducing anxiety associated with PMS, and helping to optimise fertility and egg quality.

    What are the benefits of zinc supplementation?

    Zinc supplementation may boost immune function, reduce the risk of some age-related diseases, accelerate wound and acne healing, reduce inflammation, improve cardiovascular health, and support insulin function and blood sugar control.

    Consumer Reviews and Testimonials

    “What a fantastic product! I use it to support my underactive thyroid – it is a great balance of B12, Zinc, Iodine & Copper. The customer service and help is second to none too. All round delighted to have discovered OysterMax!” – Judith, April 6, 2023, Vitality PRO official website review

    Glossary of Terms

    Age-related macular degeneration: Also known as AMD. An eye disease that causes blurring of the central vision. AMD is caused by damage to the macula of the eye, which controls vision directly ahead of the viewer.

    GABA: A neurotransmitter that regulates mood and emotional states.

    Glutamate: A neurotransmitter in the brain that plays roles in memory, learning, pain signalling and energy.

    Hypogonadism: Diminished production of testosterone in the male testes.

    Oestrogen: A hormone that regulates and governs secondary sex characteristics and the greater female reproductive system.

    Oxidation: The process by which a molecule or atom loses one or more of its electrons during a chemical reaction.

    Progesterone: A hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

    Sebaceous glands: Oil-producing glands present on the skin.