Zinc is one of the essential trace elements, which means that this trace element is vital for the human body and, therefore, must be ingested through food.
The essential trace element is involved in numerous processes of cellular metabolism and is contained in approximately 50 enzymes in the body. Zinc is important for your metabolism, it is also essential for your immune system, your skin and hair, and for wound healing.
Your body cannot form the trace element itself. Usually, there are two or four grams of the trace element in your body, which can only be stored for a short time. Therefore, it is important that you provide your body with enough quantity through your diet.
Your body and many hormones in it depend on this trace element, many different metabolic processes take place in your body, such as cell division, protein metabolism, promotes sperm production, strengthens your immune system, and guarantees skin, hair and healthy nails.
Wounds heal faster and better if your zinc is balanced. For children and adolescents, the trace element is also responsible for growth.
The structure of the mucous membrane is improved and penetration and virus capture becomes significantly more difficult. It also has an antioxidant effect and successfully fights free radicals that can harm your health.
What food is it in?
In addition to oysters, the foods richest in zinc are beef, shellfish, whole grains, eggs, and sea fish. The beef and pork liver are also very rich in zinc. These animal sources of zinc are always advantageous because your body can use them better than those from plant-based foods.
The plant-based foods that can provide our body with the important trace element include cheese, oatmeal, millet, sunflower seeds, lentils, nuts, soybeans, mixed wheat bread, wheat bran, and green peas.
The so-called phytic acid is found in foods of plant origin. This acid, like a high intake of copper, calcium, iron, and cadmium or the intake of tannins (mainly contained in coffee and tea), inhibits the absorption of zinc in the small intestine.
If zinc is taken at the same time as citric acid or protein, absorption improves as it contains vitamin C, which is a cofactor of the trace element and increases effectiveness.
Numerous enzymes need the trace element for their activities. It is a component of RNA polymerase and glutathione peroxidase, both enzymes play an important role in cell division.
Zinc also contributes to the normal metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
The trace element is also compatible with a healthy acid-base metabolism.
Zinc has a strong antioxidant effect and supports the body in the fight against free radicals. These are molecular fragments that arise from oxygen in all metabolic processes.
Free radicals damage the DNA and RNA of cells. In addition, proteins and lipids are damaged by molecules.
Smoking, UVA radiation, ozone and stress increase the amount of free radicals in the body.
Antioxidants can make the molecules harmless and therefore counteract cell aging. Zinc not only protects existing cells but also participates in the construction of new cells and in the metabolism of collagen, as well as plays an important role in the immune system.
Defense cells, called phagocytes or macrophages, absorb bacteria and other pathogens inside. As soon as this has happened, phagocytes release large amounts of zinc inside the cell and, therefore, poison the bacteria.
Sufficient intake of zinc is also a prerequisite for the body to produce antibodies. The trace element not only strengthens the immune system but also has an anti-inflammatory effect.
The supplements zinc also used for inflammatory diseases such as acne, psoriasis, neurodermatitis, gastritis, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
Zinc has a positive effect on many processes in the body. The most important are listed below, and some are supported by studies. The trace element has a very good effect on the immune system, skin, hair, nails, and chronic diseases.
It is not uncommon for the trace element to be associated with testosterone balance. If you have a zinc deficiency, you may also have a testosterone deficiency. The trace element is involved in the production of testosterone and plays an important role in the potency and fertility of a man.
There are several studies that support the theory that an enzyme that contains zinc is necessary for the formation of testosterone. This means that this enzyme cannot function properly without the trace element and as a result, the level of testosterone may fall.
2. Immune system
In a study by Tufts University in the United States, the positive effect of zinc on our immune system was demonstrated. The additional trace element intake was tested for the health of people over 65 years.
It was found that the immune system was significantly strengthened with this addition. Therefore, patients were also more protected against infections.
Zinc is immensely important for your immune system. For this reason, the supplement market is booming, especially in the colder months.
Laboratory tests have shown that the trace element can inhibit the proliferation of some cold viruses.
But there is no conclusive result, the investigation is ongoing. The fact is that the trace element can reduce both the severity and duration of a cold. However, it is advisable to talk with a doctor or pharmacist beforehand.
4. Brittle nails
A zinc deficiency often indicates brittle and thin nails, as well as white spots on the nails and strong grooves. Nails grow healthy and strong if the metabolism works perfectly and enough important substances are supplied.
Zinc is good for the skin because it is involved in the formation of keratin. Keratin is an important part of nails. If not enough keratin is formed, the nails will not grow in a healthy way and structural damage and growth disorders in the nail will occur.
What many forget are the toenails, which are also formed from keratinized cells and grow out of the skin. A zinc deficiency can also if left untreated, lead to nail infections and nail fungus. In addition, nails are less resistant.
5. Hair loss
Hair loss is often a cause of panic for both men and women. The trace element is considered essential for healthy hair growth and a healthy hair substance, as it works directly on the scalp and hair roots.
When the scalp is healthy, the hair roots are well taken care of and the hair production continues normally. Zinc contributes to the maintenance of normal hair, but if it is missing, hair loss occurs quickly. This also has to do with the preservative effect of zinc on the immune system.
The trace element can also protect the hair root from external attacks, inflammation, etc. ensuring healthy hair growth by activating energy metabolism.
The supply of nutrients to the hair root cells increases, the scalp is healthy and also the hair. Zinc also participates in the formation of collagen and keratin, both are important building materials for hair.
Keratin makes hair elastic and firm, collagen strengthens the hair root. The trace element also inhibits excessive sebum production, the hair does not become oily so fast.
6. Skin problems
The inhibition of sebum production by zinc also benefits the skin. Due to the skin not being too oily so pimples are avoided. The zinc oxide it contains can help the skin heal after injury or surgery.
A zinc deficiency leads mainly to dry skin, broken corners of the mouth and inhibits wound healing. Zinc also supports cell division and regulates the balance of fatty acids in the skin.
By strengthening the immune system, inflammation can be prevented or inhibited. This disinfectant effect of the trace element, therefore, also has a positive effect on the skin, especially for acne or cold sores.
Herpes simplex virus type 1, which is present in all bodies, is responsible for cold sores. If your immune system weakens, the virus can explode. The same applies to genital herpes.
If your body does not have enough defenses, it can also affect the skin and becomes dry, flaky, impure, and even cornea. If left untreated, it can also cause psoriasis. and neurodermatitis.
7. Inflammatory bowel disease
Because zinc plays an important role in strengthening the immune system, tissue regeneration, and wound healing, patients with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases often suffer from zinc deficiency.
An American study has shown that the ingestion of the trace element has a positive effect on the health of patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
If zinc values are in the normal range, the symptoms of these diseases also improve.
Athletes sweat a lot, and when you sweat, the trace element zinc is also lost. The more intensive the training, the more the trace element exudes.
This is the reason why athletes generally depend on a higher intake. In addition, zinc supports the regeneration of muscles and is known to strengthen the immune system.
The lower the level of zinc in the blood, the more severe the depression, therefore, depression is usually accompanied by a zinc deficiency. The deficiency weakens the immune system and facilitates stress and inflammation.
Zinc is considered an antioxidant, which counteracts oxidative stress.
Official EU health claims are approved for zinc:
Zinc contributes to …
- Normal acid-base metabolism.
- Normal carbohydrate metabolism
- A normal cognitive function
- Normal DNA synthesis
- Normal Fertility and Reproduction
- A normal function of the immune system
- Normal metabolism of macronutrients
- A normal fatty acid metabolism
- A normal vitamin A metabolism
- Normal protein synthesis
- The maintenance of normal bones
- Keeping hair normal
- Keeps nails normal
- Keeping the skin normal
- Maintain normal blood testosterone levels
- Keeping normal eyesight
- Protect cells from oxidative stress
- Zinc has a function in cell division
Daily zinc requirements
In adults, healthy women need about seven milligrams and men up to ten milligrams per day. For children and adolescents, the need is based on gender and age, while for babies one to two milligrams per day is spoken.
In the case of stress, an increase in zinc intake is advisable. Pregnant or nursing women should consume ten to eleven milligrams per day and older people, diabetics, athletes and people who often drink alcohol should also have a higher intake of the trace element. However, these groups of people run the risk of consuming too much zinc.
Therefore, the BfR, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, advises taking a maximum dose of 6.5 milligrams as a dietary supplement.
Since your body cannot form the trace element itself and cannot store it in the long term, it must be supplied through food or, if necessary, nutritional supplements. Otherwise, there may be a zinc deficiency and this often has health consequences.
Zinc deficiency can arise if you have a higher zinc requirement, for example, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. But people with a greater loss of zinc, such as athletes or the elderly, may also suffer from a deficiency.
Vegetarians and vegans are often affected because their bodies can only absorb the trace element to a limited extent.
How is zinc deficiency diagnosed?
Zinc deficiency is more noticeable due to certain symptoms that must be gradually identified. The blood zinc level is checked during a blood test. Then the value of zinc is analyzed in the laboratory and changes in the hormonal levels of cortisol in the blood are also a sign of zinc deficiency.
The same applies to a small number of blood cells. However, a blood test is never accurate. The trace element is more likely to be stored in other areas of your body, mainly in the bones, muscles, and other body tissues, such as the liver.
There are only six to 12 milligrams per liter in the blood itself. If your body suffers from zinc deficiency, it first goes to muscle reserves, bones, and body tissues. Blood values may, therefore, be slightly counterfeit.
Zinc Deficiency Symptoms
Since the important trace element participates in many functions of your body, the symptoms of a deficiency can also be extensive. Therefore, it is difficult to really identify a zinc deficiency.
The most common signs of zinc deficiency are hair loss, brittle nails, dry skin, loss of appetite, as well as poor wound healing and cracked corners of the mouth. In addition, brittle and thin hair, inflammation of the skin, growth disorders in children and adolescents, impotence, weakened immune system and difficulty concentrating can also be symptoms of zinc deficiency.
Physical symptoms of zinc deficiency:
- Skin: flaky, dry skin, eczema, acne, skin fungus, redness, and pustules, reduced wound healing, broken corners of the mouth
- Hair: Hair loss, dull, thin and brittle hair, premature gray hair
- Nails: splinters, brittle nails, white spots, grooves
- Immune system: flu infections, cold sores, frequent colds, sore throat, runny nose, cough
- Hormones: potency problems, reduced fertility, reduced libido
- Senses: Disorders of smell, vision, and taste.
Mental symptoms of zinc deficiency:
- Lack of concentration
- Reduced performance
Is an overdose possible?
Overdosing with zinc is not really possible based on food. In the case of dietary supplements, however, yes. If used in excess, you may suffer unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, or vomiting.
Too much of the trace element can negatively change your blood count and inhibit the absorption of iron and copper. An excess can even cause poisoning.
When should you start taking supplements?
If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, your zinc requirement is usually covered. Dietary supplements are useful for vegans and vegetarians because they cannot consume the trace element in meat and animal products, and these are among the main suppliers of the body.
Nursing mothers and pregnant women also have a greater need and, after consulting their doctor, should take nutritional supplements. The same applies to people with certain chronic diseases, such as diseases of the gastrointestinal area.
For children and adolescents, the intake of dietary supplements is not advisable.