Who needs Zinc Supplements?
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
People with a Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is needed to help your body function properly, support your growth and development, and keep you healthy. It's also an antioxidant that protects cells from damage by free radicals.
There are many people who need zinc supplements because they have a deficiency in the mineral. This includes women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, infants, children, and adults, particulalry those who lead arduous physical lives such as soldier's and athletes.
If you are pregnant, a lack of zinc can affect your baby's development. It can even result in low birth weight, or a preterm delivery. In addition, zinc deficiency can cause an increased risk of breast cancer.
You can get zinc through your diet, a multivitamin or by taking a supplement. It's recommended you take 8 - 11 mg daily.
People who have had a stroke, epilepsy or brain injury may have a hard time getting zinc into their bodies. This is because their blood-brain barrier can be weakened.
Symptoms of a deficiency can include brittle nails, a weakened immune system, hair loss, difficulty concentrating, and a change in taste or smell. These can be very serious.
A deficiency can also cause problems with your eyesight. Research suggests that taking zinc can slow or prevent age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of severe, permanent vision loss in people over 60.
However, the evidence is limited and there are some questions about whether zinc can actually stop this disease. It's important to talk to your doctor before starting a zinc supplement.
Zinc is essential for your body to fight infections. The trace mineral plays a role in tissue repair and wound healing, carbohydrate tolerance, synthesis of hormones, and the immune response.
The best way to know if you are deficient in zinc is to get tested for it by your doctor. They can run a test that checks your zinc levels in your blood and urine.
If your blood test results show a zinc level that's lower than recommended, you can ask your doctor for a supplement. You can start by taking a lozenge or syrup, which are safe to use as long as your doctor recommends them.
People who suffer from Osteoporosis
Calcium and magnesium are the two most common nutrients recommended by experts for bone health, but there is another mineral that also plays a role in preventing and managing osteoporosis: zinc. Zinc is an essential element in regulating the growth and maintenance of strong bones, and it also fights inflammation that can damage your bone tissue.
For example, zinc stimulates bone formation by activating an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase (ALP), which is present on the surface of the osteoblasts that make new bone cells. This enzyme triggers the formation of new bone through a series of biological processes, including redistributing calcium from your blood to your bones.
Besides bone formation, zinc can promote bone healing by increasing levels of a key enzyme called osteocalcin. Osteocalcin is necessary for repairing bone damaged by infection or trauma, and it also helps regulate your body’s calcium balance by promoting the release of the active form of vitamin D known as 1,25-D.
However, the vitamin D that you produce is only useful for absorbing calcium when your body has enough zinc. So a lack of zinc can impair your ability to absorb calcium from your diet, which can lead to bone loss and hyperparathyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland).
A recent study in Japan found that elderly patients with low BMC and poor adherence to standard therapy had improved BMC and areal aBMD scores after taking 25 mg zinc per day for 12 months. Moreover, their overall adherence to the trial was high.
This study involved 122 elderly patients with osteoporosis who took zinc in addition to their standard treatment. They were assigned to receive either placebo or 25 mg zinc twice daily. After a 3-mo washout period, BMD and laboratory data were collected at 0 (baseline), 6 and 12 months of treatment.
At the end of the study, the lateral spine aBMD was 1.4 +- 0.3 g higher in the zinc group than in the placebo group. This was accompanied by a small but significant increase in whole-body aBMD. This was compared to a 0.02-SD decrease in aBMD scores in the placebo group.
Those with Neurological symptoms
If you have a neurological condition, such as arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s possible that zinc deficiency is causing your symptoms. Zinc supplements may help increase immune function and slow the progression of these conditions.
One reason for this is that zinc can boost the production of white blood cells and decrease inflammation. Another is that it can protect against oxidative stress, which can be linked to many chronic diseases and age-related conditions.
Another reason for this is that zinc has antibacterial activity and can prevent the spread of infections. It also has been shown to help heal wounds.
It’s important to note that a person should only take zinc supplements when prescribed by their healthcare provider. This is because zinc can interact with certain medications and medical conditions.
Zinc supplementation can also cause gastrointestinal distress, especially with higher doses. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
The risk of zinc toxicity is highest in people with kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, and who have a long history of taking diuretics. Symptoms usually worsen over the course of a few days and can be fatal.
A decreased sense of smell and taste is a common symptom of zinc deficiency. It’s caused by the lack of an enzyme required for these functions.
You can get zinc from a wide range of foods, including oysters, meat, fish, and dairy products. But it’s often difficult to get enough from food alone, especially if you have health issues that limit your intake of these nutrients.
It’s important to note, however, that there are some supplements that have been shown to be effective at preventing zinc deficiency. These include zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, zinc acetate, and zinc citrate.
Pregnant women with gestational diabetes should discuss the use of zinc supplements with their healthcare provider before pregnancy. The use of these supplements was shown to improve markers of glycemic control in one placebo-controlled trial (147). It may also reduce the risk of complications during labor and delivery, including birth defects, preeclampsia, and low birth weight.
People suffering from Wounds
Anyone who suffers from a wound that won't heal can benefit from zinc supplements. Zinc is an essential mineral that supports a variety of body functions, including wound healing.
Wounds heal via a complex series of steps that involve coagulation, inflammation, proliferation and remodeling. In the first phase, blood platelets are released to form a clot on the wound site to prevent excessive bleeding. The second phase involves inflammatory cells that help fight infection. These cells, such as neutrophils and macrophages, need zinc to function properly so they can effectively attack bacteria.
The third phase of healing involves fibroblasts that build new tissue. These cells need zinc to help them form, carry out their functions and ensure the new skin tissues keep their structure.
This phase of wound healing is critical to repairing the damaged skin. This process starts about two to three days after the injury occurs.
In this phase, the body releases a series of hormones that stimulate cell growth and repair. The body also releases cytokines to promote immune responses that suppress infections.
These cytokines are important for the resolution of inflammation and for initiating re-epithelization, the process that helps injured epithelial cells proliferate and repopulate the wound to close it up. These cytokines also promote the formation of regulatory T lymphocytes, known as Tregs, which can regulate and suppress inflammation.
Several research studies have shown that zinc supplementation can improve these cellular processes, such as the number of Tregs. However, researchers are still learning more about how this nutrient can improve the body's ability to resolve inflammation and initiate re-epithelization.
It's important to note that people with certain conditions can have a hard time absorbing the necessary amount of zinc in their diet, and that may impact the effectiveness of a supplement. For example, women who have a gastrointestinal illness or are pregnant may not be able to absorb the same amount of zinc that they would if they were healthy.
Vegetarians at Risk of a Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is a vital mineral that helps maintain healthy growth and development, supports immune function, and prevents an imbalance of hormones. It also aids wound healing, reduces oxidative stress, and improves eyesight, according to researchers.
Vegetarians are at risk of a zinc deficiency because their diets often contain less of the mineral than those of meat eaters. This is because vegetarians tend to eat a lot of beans, legumes, nuts, and whole-grain food products that are lower in zinc than those of meat eaters.
These foods are rich in phytates, substances that can block the body’s ability to absorb zinc. So, it’s important to soak your beans and legumes or purchase those from brands that pre-soak theirs in water before cooking them.
If you do choose to eat these foods, it’s important to eat them with other food sources that are high in zinc to ensure your body gets the most out of its zinc intake. These include beef, poultry, fortified dairy, and beans, says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, founder of the Denver Wellness and Nutrition Center-Sodexo.
Increasing your zinc intake can be done by adding more iron-rich foods like dark leafy greens and pumpkin seeds, or by taking supplements that contain zinc. But make sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplement – they may interact with other health conditions or treatments.
Generally, a balanced plant-based diet should be sufficient to meet your needs for zinc. However, some individuals who have gastrointestinal issues or chronic diseases that can limit their ability to absorb zinc are at greater risk for a zinc deficiency.
Diabetics at Risk of a Zinc Deficiency
Zinc is one of the most essential nutrients for a healthy body. It is needed for the creation of DNA, the growth of cells, building proteins and healing damaged tissue. It also helps the immune system, and it contributes to a variety of other important functions.
Type 2 diabetics are at risk of a zinc deficiency, as are pregnant and lactating women and those who consume a diet low in this mineral. Several therapeutic drugs, including penicillamine (a drug used to treat copper overload in Wilson's disease), diuretics, and antibiotics, can inhibit the absorption of this mineral and lead to deficiency.
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of a zinc deficiency by eating a diet high in animal proteins and incorporating foods that provide at least 11 milligrams of the daily value per serving. The FDA has developed a list of foods that provide the daily value, which can be found on food labels.
Researchers have linked a higher dietary intake of zinc to lower risks of diabetes in many populations, including children, adolescents, and adults. In fact, the Nurses' Health Study followed 82,297 nurses for 24 years and showed that those who consumed the highest dietary zinc had an 8% lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those in the lowest group. This finding was confirmed in the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women's Health.
Zinc is a trace mineral that’s important for your immune system and metabolism. It also supports wound healing and your sense of taste and smell.
Your body can’t make zinc on its own, so you need to get it from foods. This mineral is most commonly found in meat, seafood and poultry. You can also get some of it from fortified cereals, breads and other products.
How much zinc you need depends on your age, sex assigned at birth and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. The recommended daily intake is 8 milligrams for women and 11 milligrams for men.
If you have a condition that decreases zinc absorption, like gastrointestinal surgery or an intestinal disorder, you may need to take supplements. For example, people with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis have lower zinc levels because their digestive tract doesn’t absorb the mineral as well.
In addition, certain medications can increase your zinc loss in urine. For example, cisplatin (Platinol-AQ) used to treat some types of cancers and deferal (Desferal), used to remove excess iron from the blood, can affect your ability to absorb zinc.
You can improve your tinnitus, which causes constant ringing in your ears, by taking zinc. In one study, supplementing with zinc increased hearing in patients with tinnitus.
Zinc supplements may help reduce blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. Some studies suggest that they also improve insulin sensitivity and promote healthy lipid parameters.
Taking oral zinc supplements can interfere with antibiotics and rheumatoid arthritis medication, so talk to your doctor before starting them.