Is Zinc a Vitamin?
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Zinc is a mineral that is essential for many body functions, including the immune system, wound healing and blood clotting. It also supports healthy skin, eye health and a sense of taste and smell.
Some groups are at higher risk for zinc deficiency, such as people who have gastrointestinal disorders or have had surgery to the stomach or intestines. It's also important for pregnant and breast-feeding women.
What is zinc?
Zinc is a vitamin that's found in a wide range of foods, from meat, fish and poultry to whole grains, nuts, legumes and vegetables. It helps with wound healing, immune system function, and cell growth, among other things. It also protects against sunburn, acne, and other skin problems.
It's important for pregnant women and young children because of its ability to promote a healthy pregnancy. It's also important for adults because it helps keep blood clotting strong and support thyroid function, among other things.
Many of the enzymes and proteins that the body needs for normal function are made from zinc, which is why it's important to get enough of this nutrient. A deficiency can lead to brittle nails, a decrease in the sense of smell and taste, and problems concentrating.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that men and women 19 years and older consume 11 milligrams of zinc daily. It's best to get this amount from foods, but supplementation is also an option if you need it.
A deficiency can be dangerous because it can lead to a variety of other issues, including heart disease, kidney failure, cancer and mental health problems. You should talk to your doctor before taking a high dose of zinc or any other supplements.
You should also check with your doctor if you're taking penicillamine (Cognex), a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and Wilson disease, because it can reduce the effect of zinc supplements. You should take your zinc and penicillamine at least 1 hour apart to avoid this interaction.
If you're on thiazide diuretics, such as chlorthalidone (Hygroton) and hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix and HydroDIURIL), you should stop taking them before you start zinc supplements. These drugs increase the amount of zinc that your body excretes in the urine. They can also cause a zinc deficiency, so you should talk to your doctor before taking them if you're taking a zinc supplement or eating lots of zinc-rich foods.
A deficiency can also be dangerous for your eyes, because it can lead to age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 60 years old. Some research suggests that zinc may slow the progress of this disease, but the evidence is not yet clear.
What are the benefits of zinc?
Zinc is a mineral that your body needs to keep working properly. Its benefits are broad, and include boosting immune function, supporting wound healing, and promoting growth and repair. It also plays a role in the production of insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.
The mineral is an essential component of more than 200 enzymes in the human body, which function to build and maintain a variety of proteins and compounds. Without adequate zinc, many of these enzymes cannot function correctly and may cause problems.
Deficiency of the mineral is relatively uncommon, but can occur in certain situations. For example, if you have had bariatric weight-loss surgery or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, you may not get enough zinc because your absorption rate is reduced and you lose a lot of the mineral when you urinate.
A small percentage of people have low zinc levels, which can affect how well they heal after surgery or during an illness. If you have this condition, your doctor might recommend zinc supplements.
Studies show that zinc supplementation can help improve certain health conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. It can also decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that gradually erodes your vision over time.
You can find zinc in various foods, including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, beans, and nuts. Plant-based sources of the mineral are less abundant because they contain phytates, which can interfere with zinc absorption.
It's important to note that superloading your diet with too much zinc can lead to excess stomach acid and other digestive issues, so it's best to consume it in moderation. For example, you should limit yourself to 100 mg of zinc a day.
If you take any other medications on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about whether they can affect your zinc levels. Some drugs, such as tetracycline antibiotics and some antipsychotics, can inhibit the absorption of zinc.
Zinc is an antioxidant that helps protect against cell damage from free radicals, which are harmful byproducts of normal metabolism and can cause serious health problems such as cancer and heart disease. It also boosts memory and cognitive function in some studies.
What are the risks of zinc?
Zinc is an essential nutrient that the body requires small amounts of to stay healthy. It can be obtained through foods and supplements.
Zinc plays many important roles in the body, including maintaining bone health, regulating thyroid hormone, helping with wound healing and reducing oxidative stress. It also is an antioxidant that may help protect against chronic disease.
Most of the time, you get zinc from the food you eat. If you have a diet low in zinc or if you take certain drugs, your doctor may prescribe supplements to ensure you get enough.
When you take a zinc supplement, it enters the body in three ways: by mouth, inhaled through your nose, or through skin contact. Once inside, it binds to proteins and then moves to the bloodstream where it's used by the body's organs.
The liver, kidneys, intestines, muscle, and pancreas are all places where zinc is stored or secreted. Normally, the body eliminates excess zinc through the feces and urine.
Some people who are undernourished and suffer from severe zinc deficiency might require zinc supplements by mouth, as well as other vitamins and minerals. Taking zinc by mouth is especially useful in children who are severely undernourished or have severe diarrhea, and also to prevent the development of an inherited disorder called Wilson's disease that causes too much copper to be released into the body.
In some people, the use of intranasal zinc sprays might cause loss of smell. This is a serious problem and the FDA has recommended that consumers avoid such products.
Applying zinc hyaluronate gel to foot ulcers that have not healed after conventional treatment can improve wound healing. This is a big improvement over the standard treatment that involves dressings and antibiotics.
Early research suggests that taking zinc supplements might slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease in some people. However, more research is needed to find out whether it has any effect on other dementias.
Some studies show that taking zinc along with antidepressants improves depression in some people. If you have depression or are considering using a supplement to treat yours, talk to your doctor first.
How can I get more zinc?
Zinc is a vitamin that your body needs for a variety of cellular functions. It helps with cell growth and division, immune function, wound healing, thyroid function, blood clotting, and eye health.
You can get more zinc through your diet. Many foods contain zinc, including meats and seafood. You can also get it through whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
The best way to get more zinc is through a healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits, such as kiwis, blueberries, and strawberries, are rich in zinc, along with spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and kale. Adding these foods to your diet will help your body absorb more of this essential mineral, as well as other nutrients that help keep your health in check.
Nuts and seeds are great sources of zinc, especially those with a high fat content. Try sprinkling a handful of cashews, pecans, or peanuts on top of oatmeal or low-fat yogurt to boost your intake. Or add chia seeds to your lunch or dinner recipes, which have about 1.3 mg of zinc per oz.
Another good source of zinc is lamb, which is a meaty protein that can be found in both vegan and non-vegan diets. 100 grams of lamb provides 4.8 mg of zinc, notes the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
It's important to note that zinc can be absorbed differently by different people. This is why a supplement can be useful if you're not getting enough zinc through your diet, especially if you're a vegetarian or vegan.
A zinc deficiency can lead to serious problems, such as a weakened immune system and impaired growth. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor.
Some researchers have also linked low zinc levels with heart disease, including arrhythmia. Eating a diet rich in zinc can help protect your heart, as well. It can also reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which is associated with low levels of zinc. If you have diabetes or are at risk for it, talk to your doctor about taking a zinc supplement to help manage your condition.
Zinc is a trace mineral, meaning your body only needs small amounts to stay healthy.
It boosts your immune system to fight off infections, helps wounds heal and protects against inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
A zinc deficiency can lead to serious health problems including an increased risk of pneumonia and diarrhea in children, poor growth and hair loss.
There is no evidence that zinc supplements can help prevent colds or shorten the duration of them but taking them before you get sick may reduce their severity.
Some doctors recommend zinc to prevent or slow the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which damages the part of the retina that gives us central vision.
Researchers say that a diet high in whole grains and legumes can increase the amount of zinc absorbed by the body. Soaking these foods overnight, or pairing them with meat, can also improve absorption.
Using zinc in large quantities, for example as a supplement, can cause nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. It can also interfere with the absorption of other nutrients such as copper and iron.
Zinc interacts with other drugs, including antibiotics and antidepressants. Talk to your doctor before you take it with any of these medications.
HIV and AIDS patients can have low levels of zinc due to medication, poor dietary intake or diarrhea. Some studies show that taking a zinc supplement can help decrease the number of opportunistic infections in these patients.
But not all studies agree. For instance, one study found that taking zinc supplements with HIV medications can increase death rates.