The human body requires certain mineral elements to function correctly. These minerals are referred to as essential mineral elements and must be obtained by a balanced diet as they are not produced or stored by the body. Zinc (Zn) is one of the many essential elements that ensure the healthy functioning of the human body. Zinc is considered a trace essential element which means that a minimal amount is required for optimum body function, but a deficiency will have profound adverse effects. After iron, it is the second most abundant trace mineral found in the cells of the human body. 

Dietary Sources of Zinc (Zn)

Zinc is an essential mineral element that can be obtained by diet and various food products that are fortified with zinc to prevent deficiency and ensure that the minimum dietary requirements of zinc are available to individuals.

 The following are a few dietary sources of zinc:
  1. Seafood (Oysters, crabs, lobsters)
  2. Meat (Beef, chicken)
  3. Mushrooms
  4. Spinach
  5. Garlic
  6. Beans
  7. Lentils
  8. Whole grains
  9. Nuts 
  10. Yogurt and cheese 
  11. Cereals (Zn fortified)

Daily Requirements

The following are the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of zinc according to age and gender.

 

PopulationRDA 
Adult males11 mg
Adult females8-9 mg
Children3-5 mg
Pregnant/Lactating women11-13 mg

 


Role of Zinc in Human Health

Zinc plays a pivotal role in maintaining human health. The following are a few important effects of zinc:

Immune Response

Zinc has a number of effects on the immune system a few of them are as follows: 

  1. Zinc plays an active role in the normal development of natural killer cells, neutrophils, and macrophages that help in the innate immune response.
  2. Zinc acts as an antioxidant and reduces radical-induced injury during an inflammatory process.
  3. Zinc reduces the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
  4. Zinc also activates T cells and helps destroy infected and cancerous cells.

Enzymatic activity

Zinc acts as a co-factor for various enzymes to increase the rate of chemical reactions. The following are a few examples:

  1. Carbonic anhydrase which is necessary for the regulation of carbon dioxide levels.
  2.  Carboxypeptidase which is useful in protein digestion.

Wound Healing

Zinc increases collagen synthesis and reduces inflammation accelerating wound healing.

According to research zinc supplements can increase the rate of wound healing and topical zinc supplements can be used to treat wounds.

Acne

Zinc helps fight acne as it reduces inflammation, secretions from oil glands, and also inhibits

bacterial growth.

Topical zinc supplements are inexpensive and have a lower side effect profile and can be a treatment for acne.  

Blood sugar levels

Insulin is a hormone that is required to transfer sugar from the blood to the tissues. Zinc increases insulin sensitivity and helps keep the body’s blood sugar levels steady.

Lowers cholesterol levels

According to different studies zinc effectively reduces bad cholesterol levels and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Common cold

Various clinical trials have suggested that using zinc-containing lozenges are effective in shortening the duration of the common cold.

Memory and cognition

Zinc is hypothesized to play an important role in neuronal communications that are important for memory function and cognition.

It has been suggested to use zinc supplements to reduce cognitive deterioration in Alzheimer’s disease.

Diarrhea

A clinical trial suggested that children with diarrhea, when treated with zinc, showed a significant reduction in symptoms. Zinc supplements may be used to treat diarrhea.

Other uses

Zinc can also be used for the treatment of the following:

  1. Preventing blindness due to age-related macular degeneration
  2. Depression
  3. Neonatal sepsis
  4. Osteoporosis
  5. Male infertility
  6. Pneumonia
  7. Wilson’s Disease

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency can be congenital or acquired due to inadequate dietary intake or malabsorption. The deficiency can cause derangement of multiple biologic processes. Epidermal, gastrointestinal, central nervous, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems can be affected by zinc deficiency. It is crucial to get it diagnosed and treated accordingly.

Zinc Supplements

Zinc supplements and zinc-containing medications are available in several forms and can be obtained over the counter.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.