Zinc is an essential mineral and is responsible for the activity of more than 300 enzymes in the body. It is required for the synthesis of protein, DNA and RNA, prostate gland function, immune system regulation, wound healing, cell growth, taste and smell, skin health, and bone formation. Approximately 60% of zinc is stored in muscle, 30% in bones and 6% in the skin. The highest concentrations of zinc are found in the prostate gland and sperm in men, and in red and white blood cells. The liver, retina of the eye, kidneys, and hair also have high concentrations of zinc.
Zinc is a bluish gray metal found abundantly in the earth’s crust and in foods such as oysters, animal products, beans, nuts and seeds. In general fruits and vegetables are not good zinc sources. Zinc from animal foods is better absorbed due to being bound with proteins. Less zinc is absorbed when bound with phytates or oxylates found in grains and vegetables.
Foods High in Zinc
- Oysters 493% daily value (DV) per 3 oz.
- Beef chuck roast 47% DV per 3 oz.
- Alaska King Crab 43% DV per 3 oz.
- Beef patty 35% DV per 3 oz.
- Hemp seeds 26% DV per oz.
- Lobster 23% DV per 3 oz.
- Pork chop 19% DV per 3 oz.
- Pumpkin Seeds 17% DV per ¼ cup
- Pine nuts 17% DV per oz.
- Chicken dark meat 16% DV per 3 oz.
- Sunflower seeds 14% DV per 1 oz.
- Chia Seeds 12% DV per 1 oz.
- Flax Seeds 11% DV per 1 oz.
- Cashews 11% DV per 1 oz.
- Brazil Nuts 10%nDV per 1 oz.
- Chickpeas 9% DV per ½ cup
- Almonds 6% DV per 1 oz.
Zinc deficiency is fairly common, 3 out 4 people in the U.S. get fewer than the recommended 15 mg per day. Zinc is becoming less available in our soil due to losses in soil and in the processing of foods (80% of zinc is lost in making white flour). Individuals with gastrointestinal disorders (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s, diarrhea) can have low zinc due to reduced absorption. Vegetarians may also benefit from zinc supplementation since animal foods contain more bioavailable zinc than plant foods. High fiber foods, bran, phytates, found mainly in the outer covering of grains may also inhibit zinc absorption in the gut. Low levels have been associated with higher rates of prostate, bronchial, esophageal, and colon cancers. Those who want to facilitate wound healing, such as chronic leg ulcers, may be helped by zinc supplementation. Females on birth control pills usually have elevated copper and need additional zinc.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include:
- Slowed growth
- Lowered resistance- increased susceptibility to infection
- Sensitivity and reactions to environmental chemicals may be exaggerated
- Skin rashes
- Delayed healing of skin wounds or ulcers
- Stretch marks
- Mental lethargy
- Low sperm count
- Hair loss/ thinning,
- Skin dryness and acne
- Impaired thyroid function and insulin action
- Decreased sense of smell and taste
- Brittleness of nails
- White spots on nails
Zinc is fairly nontoxic in amounts less than 100 -150 mg of elemental zinc. Don’t exceed 15 mg of elemental zinc per dose, will cause nausea and vomiting (take with food). Other signs of overuse are a metallic taste in the mouth, copper deficiency, gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, stomach upset) and fatigue. Excessive supplementation can lead to immune suppression, premature heartbeats, dizziness, drowsiness, increased sweating, muscular incoordination, alcohol intolerance, hallucinations and anemia.
Conditions that zinc supplementation can support:
- Prostate problems – bph- enlarged prostate, prostatitis. Prostate cells accumulate more zinc than any other cells in the human body. The presence of zinc suppresses tumor growth. Use zinc for healthy hormone balance.
- Diabetes – zinc improves glycemic control and lipid profiles. Improves insulin sensitivity.
- Rheumatoid arthritis – studies show significantly lower zinc levels in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Lower levels are associated with more severe disease.
- Stomach ulcers – zinc helps promote a healthy gut lining.
- Urinary tract infection – zinc provides immune system support.
- Immune system & Infection fighting – zinc boosts the immune system.
- Inflammatory acne – zinc has anti-inflammatory properties. It reduces inflammatory response to bacteria.
- Bone healing – zinc aids in callus formation, enhances bone protein production, and stimulates fracture healing.
- Cold and flu – zinc reduces cold symptoms if taken within 24 hours of symptom onset. It reduces incidence and severity. Try zinc lozenges for a healthy immune system.
- Ear infection – zinc boosts immune function and facilitates healing.
- Farsightedness/nearsightedness/ vision loss – impaired vision has been linked to zinc deficiency. Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye.
- Gum disease – one of the first signs of zinc deficiency is bleeding gums and gingivitis.
- Hair loss – zincs ability to regrow hair is due to zincs role in DNA and RNA production. Zinc deficiency weakens the hair follicles.
- Hypothyroidism – zinc is essential for healthy levels of thyroid hormones.
- Inflammation – zinc assists immune system function and has anti-inflammatory effects.
- Allergies – zinc inhibits histamine release.
- Dental– zinc strengthens tooth enamel.
- Cadmium toxicity – cadmium intestinal absorption is greater with zinc deficiency. Zinc partially blocks the toxic effects of cadmium.
- Cystic fibrosis – zinc may reduce number of days antibiotics needed.
- Wound healing – speed recovery time after surgery, burns, injury (because zinc involved in DNA synthesis). Zinc is needed for the cross linking of collagen, and when zinc is low, the skin tissue may break down.
- Skin problems – boils, bedsores, general dermatitis, acne, leg ulcers, gastric ulcers, psoriasis. Zinc facilitates healing of the skin.
- Nail and hair – white spots on fingernails indicate a deficiency.
- Viral infections – useful in acute viral infections. Try zinc lozenges.
Different forms of Zinc are:
- Ionic Zinc sulfate – zinc in the ionic state is efficiently absorbed
- Zinc acetate – used in lozenges
- Zinc gluconate – poorly absorbed
- Zinc oxide – common ingredient in sunscreen
- Zinc picolinate – good absorption
- Zinc orotate – readily absorbed, leads to higher tissue levels of zinc
- Zinc citrate – bioavailable
Foods and supplements that decrease zinc absorption:
- Milk and eggs reduce zinc absorption
- Calcium, phosphorous, copper, iron, lead, cadmium all compete with zinc for absorption
- Calcium supplements at high levels can decrease zinc uptake in the gut – take separately
- Zinc may impair iron absorption- take them with food to prevent competition
- High phosphorous may decrease gut absorption of zinc
- High supplemental zinc may decrease copper absorption.
- Magnesium and zinc may compete for absorption- take them at different times
- Zinc supplementation may interfere with the absorption and activity of antibiotics
Include foods high in zinc at every meal to raise your zinc levels. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if taking zinc supplements is right for you. Farmacy Counter’s recommended zinc supplements are below. Click the image or link to be directed to Amazon. Also visit our store for more recommendations.