7 Facts About Zinc You Never Knew

7 Facts About Zinc You Never Knew

Rishika Narayanan
By Rishika Narayanan
Zinc (Zn) is a basic chemical element, a brittle metal in its natural form. It is one of the first elements in the periodic table that can be effortlessly extracted from the Earth’s crust; in fact, Zinc is the 24th most abundant element on the crust. It possesses a plethora of nutritional values and is an essential aspect of cellular metabolism in our body; Zinc is also extremely important in prenatal and postnatal development. Zinc is a crucial element that plays a key role in several catalytic activities contributing to wound healing, DNA synthesis, Cell division, immune function, protein synthesis, and much more. The human body has no specific mechanism or system to store Zinc, and hence it’s important to incorporate an appropriate amount of Zinc into your daily diet.
Zinc deficiency is an actual issue that has affected over 2 billion people around the world and contributes to several human diseases. In children and young adults, zinc deficiency can cause diarrhea, hinder growth, increase infection susceptibility, and result in delayed sexual maturation. Despite the issues caused by zinc deficiency, it’s important to not consume excess Zinc as it can also lead to negative effects such as ataxy and lethargy.

1. After iron, Zinc is the most abundant mineral in the human body

As we all know, iron is an essential mineral for the human body; it helps transport oxygen throughout our body, and a deficiency of it may cause fatigue, anemia, and more serious issues if not treated. Zinc is the second most abundant and important mineral for the human body as it positively contributes to several regular bodily functions such as cell formation, cell division, and much more. In our human body, Zinc is found in cells and plays a key role in the immune system (body’s defense mechanism). The less commonly known fact about Zinc is regarding its role in our sense of smell and taste. An interesting fact about Zinc: if the appropriate amount is consumed over time, it reduced risks of common cold and fever.

2. Zinc plays a vital role in wound healing

Apart from the benefits discussed above, one of the most important role of Zinc in the human body is to facilitate wound healing. Zinc is involved in every phase of healing, and it contributes to the process by handling skin integrity and structure. It is extensively used in the treatment of burns, bruises, surgical wounds, ulcers, and other skin wounds. In fact, Zinc is also an important element of several skin creams that are used to treat rashes and skin irritations. This element is also a cofactor in other processes such as cell membrane repair, growth, and function. You can also find paste bandages in the market that contain zinc oxide, which is meant to enhance the healing process and soothe inflamed skin. Zinc deficiency can lead to pathological changes and express delayed wound healing.

3. Too much Zinc in the body can be troublesome

While we have looked at the benefits and importance of Zinc in the human body, it’s also important to understand the negative effects of excess Zinc in our bodies. Yes, too much Zinc can lead to short term as well as long term issues.

The amount of Zinc your body requires mainly depends on your age, below is a list of the daily recommended amount of Zinc to include in your diet.

Age/StageRecommended Amount
Below 6 Months2 mg
7 - 12 Months3 mg
1 - 3 Years3 mg
4 - 8 Years5 mg
9 - 13 Years8 mg
14 - 18 Years9 mg (girls), 11 mg (boys)
Men - Adults11 mg
Women - Adults10 mg
Pregnant Women11 mg
Breastfeeding Women12 mg

Zinc is a common element in most multivitamins and mineral supplements. It is usually also available in calcium and magnesium dietary supplements.

Below is a list presenting the most common symptoms of consuming excessive amounts of Zinc:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cramps and stomachaches
  • Headaches
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Apart from the short-term issues mentioned above, consumption of too much Zinc for long periods can lead to more harmful and long lasting effects such as low immunity, low copper levels and low levels of “good”(HDL) cholesterol.

4. Some of the most common sources of Zinc

As we have already understood that Zinc plays a key role in the human body, it’s important to know that our body is not capable of producing and hence you must obtain it from outside sources such as through foods and supplements.

Some of the common food sources of Zinc
Some of the common food sources of Zinc

Zinc is important for our body and hence it’s great that it’s widely found in both animal and plant based foods. However, It’s known fact that Zinc from animal products are more easily consumed by the human body as compared to zinc from plant based foods (due to other plant compounds that cause inhibition). Foods that do not contain Zinc naturally, are often packed with synthetic forms of the mineral.

Below is a list that includes a plethora of zinc sources:

  • Shellfish (crab, clams, lobster and oyster)
  • Beef, pork and lamb
  • Chicken and Turkey
  • Fish (Salmon, sardines and sole)
  • Nuts and seeds such as cashews, pumpkin seeds etc.
  • Lentils, chickpeas, black beans and other lentils
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yoghurt etc.
  • Vegetables (kale, peas, mushrooms and asparagus)
  • Rice, quinoa, and other whole grains.

5. Zinc may help with Acne

We have already concluded that Zinc is an extremely important element for the human body but apart from facilitating functionalities discussed above, Zinc has also proven to be beneficial in treating other issues such as Acne. One of the widely studied uses of Zinc happens to be its role in the treatment of acne.

Zinc is of great help when it comes to fighting off viruses and bacteria, we also know that it helps in healing wounds as it possesses some anti-inflammatory properties too. Therefore it can be of use in relieving irritation, soreness and redness caused by acne. In some cases, it can also help reduce the scars.

Studies show that when treating acne with Zinc, the form of consumption might play a role while determining its effectiveness. For examples, Zinc from dietary tablets have proven to be more effective for such uses as severe acne. Even over-the-counter acne medication that contain a substantial amount of Zinc may help in acne treatments (though not much proof exists).

We also recommend that you take zinc supplements only after consulting your doctor and decide the dosage as per their recommendations.

6. Zinc is a great immunity booster

Zinc is an essential mineral for the human body, it helps keep the body healthy in many ways. It has shown to be extremely beneficial in boosting immunity. On a biological level, Zinc modulates the susceptibility to infections and affects other aspects of the human immune system. It can also positively impact human immunity by preventing the growth and functionalities of T lymphocytes. Over the years, more and more research has been conducted to trace the impact of Zinc on the molecular mechanisms of the human body. Adequate amount of Zinc in the daily diet can certainly help in preventing certain infections and improve overall resistance.

Zinc is a great immunity booster
Zinc is a great immunity booster

Zinc deficiency can lead to a weakened immune system and expose the body to common infections.

7. Help reduce risks of age-related diseases

Please note that there is a lack of evidence related studies conducted for this claim.

However, few researches conducted show Zinc’s positive impact on reducing risks of diseases such as pneumonia and age related muscular degeneration (AMD). This is related to Zinc’s ability to reduce oxidative stress and boost immunity in the human body.

A certain study conducted shows that appropriate amount of Zinc per day can even decreases infection rate in adults over the age of 45 by nearly 66%.

Another study shows that taking antioxidant supplements with an added zinc can reduce risks of age related vision loss and AMD.

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