February 06, 2014

Zinc - Essentials

     Zinc may be a less familiar dietary mineral than iron or calcium or sodium, but it is no less important to our metabolism or our health. Like magnesium, zinc is used as a co-factor by a number of critical enzymes. (This "co-factor" status of zinc means that zinc participates directly in the activity of the enzymes.) In fact, more than 300 zinc-dependent enzymes are currently known.


  • Zinc is an essential mineral required by the body for maintaining a sense of smell
  • It helps in keeping a healthy immune system
  • It assists in building proteins, triggering enzymes, and creating DNA.
  • Zinc also helps the cells in your body communicate by functioning as a neurotransmitter

Rich Sources

  • Toasted Wheat Germ
  • Veal Liver
  • Roasted Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
  • Dried Watermelon Seeds
  • Dark Chocolate and Cocoa Powder
  • Lamb, Crab, Chicken Leg (Roasted), Lobster
  • Peanuts
  • Baked Beans
  • Dry Roasted Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Kidney Beans and Green Peas
  • Sesame Seeds (Tahini)

Recommended Daily Intake


  • Men 19 years and older: 11 mg (RDA)
  • Women 19 years and older: 8 mg (RDA)
  • Pregnant women 19 years and older: 11 mg (RDA)
  • Breastfeeding women 19 years and older: 12 mg (RDA)


  • Frequent infections
  • Hypogonadism in males
  • Loss of hair
  • Poor appetite
  • Problems with the sense of taste or smell
  • Skin sores
  • Slow growth
  • Wounds that take a long time to heal
A more severe case of zinc deficiency is characterized by delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males, eye lesions, skin lesions, weight loss, taste abnormalities, and in some cases mental lethargy.


A deficiency in zinc can lead to stunted growth, diarrhea, impotence, hair loss, eye and skin lesions, impaired appetite, and depressed immunity.

Prone to Deficiency 

  • The elderly
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Vegetarian


Consuming too much zinc can lead to nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches in the short term, low blood pressure, convulsions, shortness of breath and can disrupt absorption of copper and iron in the long term. Zinc toxicity may lead to gastrointestinal and urinary complications.

Health Benefits

  • Healthy Immune Function - Even mild to moderate zinc deficiency can depress the immune system through impaired macrophage and neutrophil functions, and associated effects. Zinc is also essential for creation and activation of T-lymphocytes. Further, low levels of zinc have been associated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections in children and the elderly.
  • Alleviation of the Common Cold (*Controversial) - There are conflicting studies as to whether or not zinc supplements can alleviate symptoms of the common cold and shorten its duration. At least one study confirms decreased duration of cold symptoms compared to a control, however, other studies report no effect. Since no harm is reported, increasing zinc intake could only help.
  • Healing of Cuts and Wounds - Zinc is essential for healthy skin and maintenance of mucosal membranes. Adequate levels of zinc is necessary for proper wound healing.
  • Reduced Severity and Duration of Diarrhea - Studies show that increased intake of zinc can reduce duration and severity of diarrhea in undernourished children with infections.
  • Prevention and Reduction of Age-Related Eye Damage - High dietary intake of zinc, as well as vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, has been associated with reduced age-related macular degeneration in the elderly.



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