Zinc for Everyday Health

Zinc is a biological essential mineral for humans. Over 300 enzymes in the body require zinc to function normally. Zinc is found in a variety of food sources such as oysters, pumpkin seeds, beef and egg yolks.

Zinc is absorbed in the small intestines however, absorption can be greatly disrupted due to a person’s diet, illness and various inhibitors such as phytic acid found in food sources such as grains and legumes.

It is estimated that globally greater than 25% of people are at risk of zinc deficiency, this is predominantly due to poor food choices that lack bioavailable zinc.

Why Do We Need Zinc?

The list of why we need zinc is almost endless. I have only briefly highlighted below some of the main areas of why we need zinc for our health and in certain circumstances how zinc supplementation may help improve our health.

  • Growth

Zinc is an important nutrient for children and is required to support their growth, development and brain function. The physiological requirement for zinc peaks during adolescence, therefore it is critical that a whole food diet is consumed to ensure adequate zinc levels are maintained.

  • Immune Function

Zinc deficiency can depress the immune system by impairing white blood cells (cells of the immune system) from functioning and responding to bacteria, viruses and germs that invade the body. Zinc has also been clinically proven to help reduce the severity and duration of a cold when taken within 24 hours of onset.

  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Research has shown that zinc can help delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

  • Tinnitus Associated with Noise Induced Hearing Loss

In a small clinical trial it was found that oral zinc supplementation helped improve the overall quality of life in people suffering from tinnitus associated with noise induced hearing loss by decreasing their overall emotional, functional and catastrophic response to tinnitus. Moreover, several studies have shown a significant association with low levels of zinc and tinnitus. 

  • Mental Health

Zinc is an essential cofactor nutrient to help convert protein into amino acids and then into neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) such as tryptophan and serotonin. Low levels of zinc have consistently been found in depressive disorders and increasing the intake of zinc has been shown to modulate and improve symptoms of depression.

  • Digestive Function

Zinc is an essential nutrient for digestive health. Zinc activates digestive enzymes to help breakdown food and is needed by the cells of the digestive tract to protect the mucosal lining of the stomach and small intestine from damage.

  • Other Functions Which Zinc Is Needed

Wound healing, protein synthesis, DNA synthesis and proper sense of taste and smell.

Final Word

Although in general zinc is a safe supplement to take orally when prescribed correctly, it can interact with certain medications, illnesses and for some people cause minor stomach upsets. Many zinc supplements are compounded with other nutraceuticals to help increase its absorbency and ensure the correct type and dose of zinc is used.

It must be noted that zinc can be toxic at high doses and compete with other nutrients resulting in their deficiencies. This is why I always recommend seeking advice from a degree qualified health professional that understands supplementation therapies.

Changes to your diet or nutrition to manage a health condition should only be undertaken with advice from a suitably qualified nutritional health professional.

This factsheet is for general information only. Please contact me to discuss your individual needs.