What does zinc do?

Zinc found in virtually every cell in body and is a component of two hundred enzymes. Therefore, zinc is essential for many functions such as cell growth and replication, fertility and reproduction, immune defenses, taste and appetite. 

Zinc is also  required for calcification in bones, digestion and respiration. 

It plays a key role in immunity as it is needed for Natural Killer cells to kill tumours and virally infected cells and also regulate that thymus gland. 

What is zinc good for?

Zinc has been used therapeutically for relieving symptoms of or preventing:

Acne, HIV, anorexia nervosa, benign prostatic hyperplasia, cataracts, eczema, herpes immunodepression, male infertility, intestinal ulcers, macular degeneration, psoriasis, poor wound healing and rheumatoid arthritis.

How much zinc do I need?

RDA is 15mg per day.

How do I know I need zinc?

Zinc deficiencies are often caused by heavy alcohol use and excess grain consumption. This is because phytates found in foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes bond to zinc making absorption impossible. However, this can be mitigated by soaking, sprouting or fermenting these foods to remove the phytates.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly are more prone to low zinc levels.

Zinc levels are also reduced in times of healing and recovery.

Certain medications such as oral contraceptives, corticosteroids and diuretics as well as alcohol can also deplete zinc levels.

Zinc deficiency is characterised by a loss of appetite, stunted growth in children, small sex glands in boys, loss of taste, smell, dandruff and dull hair. 

Skin disorders including eczema, acne, psoriasis are also related to zinc deficiency. 

You may also see problems such infertility, mouth ulcers, growth retardation and sleep disorders. More visibly white spots on fingernails are associated with zinc deficiency. 

Things you need to know about zinc

Vitamin A is necessary for absorption and metabolism of zinc. 

However,  zinc absorption is inhibited by copper, iron, manganese and high calcium. 

If you are supplementing zinc then zinc sulfate appears to be most easily absorbed. Zinc chelates such as acetate, citrate, glycerate, picolinate are also other options that are better absorbed.

High doses of zinc can cause nausea, impaired immunity and stomach upset. Also watch out for taking zinc for prolonged periods of time as it can cause copper deficiency because competes with copper for absorption.  

Where can I find zinc?

  • Oysters and other shellfish, beef, turkey, tuna, cheddar
  • Nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes 
  • Fermented soy, ginger root, leeks, swiss chard, tahini