10 Must Know Zinc Facts - FAQ about Zinc

Overwhelming scientific evidence from all over the world confirms the importance of zinc in human nutrition. Getting enough zinc is utterly essential to good health, and it's only prudent to include both zinc and its co-factor, copper, in your daily nutritional supplements. Here are ten things everyone needs to know about zinc.

  1. One of the best-known benefits of zinc is fighting colds. Zinc can help you get over a cold, but you need the zinc in your nose and throat, not in your bloodstream. That's why sucking on a zinc lozenge is the best way to get the zinc you need to throw of a viral infection.
  2. People who are deficient in iron are usually deficient in zinc, and people who are deficient in zinc are usually deficient in iron. That's because the phytate in whole grains, beans, and nuts blocks the absorption of minerals, especially zinc, iron, and calcium. If you are prescribed an iron supplement for anemia, you should also take zinc, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D, to ensure all the minerals you need are absorbed in the amounts you need.
  3. Getting more than about 40 milligrams of zinc a day for more than two weeks can cause depletion of copper. This is because both zinc and copper are transported from the small intestine into the bloodstream by piggybacking a protein called metallothionein. If all the metallothionein is busy transporting zinc, the body can experience copper deficiency with serious consequences for the central nervous system.
  4. Zinc SymbolThe human body absorbs zinc with the help of proteins that are rich in the amino acid cysteine. If you don't get enough cysteine in your diet, your body cannot absorb zinc. (Cysteine is technically a non-essential amino acid, but low-protein diets will not provide enough of the other amino acids from which the body can make it.) Food sources of cysteine include red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, oats, wheat germ, and all foods of animal origin.
  5. Zinc oxide offers the most completion protection against the UV-A and UV-B rays of the sun of any sunblock. You have to apply to your skin, of course, not take it as a dietary supplement. If you are concerned about whitening your skin, simply apply a blush over makeup when you aren't wearing the sunblock.
  6. Fiber interferes with the absorption of zinc, copper, and calcium. If you take zinc, copper, iron or calcium supplements, don't take them at the same time you eat a high-fiber meal. Fiber-rich foods and leafy greens offer many health benefits, but they block absorption of minerals.
  7. The most common complication of zinc deficiency in childhood is diarrhea-often fatal in developing countries. The children most susceptible to zinc deficiency are those given strictly vegan diets with a limited choice of foods, all of them high in fiber.
  8. The most common complication of zinc deficiency in older adults is pneumonia. Without enough zinc, the thymus gland cannot help antibodies mature to fight lung infectons.
  9. Zinc side effects, or zinc toxicity, are caused by depletion of copper. The most common cause of zinc toxicity in the United States was the regular use of a denture adhesive known as Super Poligrip, which was only taken off the US and Japanese markets in February 2010. The denture cream contained so much zinc that some users experienced severe copper deficiency that severely damaged the central nervous system. One 57-year-old man who used the product now has to use a walker, and one 63-year-old man who used Poligrip died of copper deficiency. Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline has since removed zinc from its denture adhesive products.
  10. What kind of zinc should you take? Here's a quick guide to various chemical forms of zinc and how they are best used:

How Much Zinc is Too Much?

The important thing to remember about zinc dosage is that more is not always better. Adults need only about 10 milligrams of zinc per day to prevent deficiency, although nursing mothers and pregnant women need a little more, about 14 milligrams of zinc per day. Don't take more than 60 milligrams per day unless you have a medically diagnosed zinc deficiency, and also be sure to get a daily dose of 1 to 3 milligrams of copper.

Foods High in Zinc Content

And what about zinc-rich foods? The best foods for getting your zinc are red meats, especially beef, lamb, and liver, and, ironically, the same plant foods that contain the phytates that interfere with the absorption of zinc, such as nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Corn is a good source of zinc if it has been stone-ground, although most other milling processes do not break the fibers that otherwise keep the zinc from being absorbed.

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Zinc Side Effects - Before taking zinc supplements, you should be wary of some risks you are subjecting yourself to. Read and find out about the side effects of taking too much zinc.

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