Zinc: Contraindications, Benefits, Symptoms For Excess And Use In Children And Pregnant Women

Having a diet rich in minerals is essential to maintaining health. But among so many nutrients, there is one that plays a prominent role: zinc. This mineral is essential to keep our body working efficiently, since it protects against a large number of diseases and helps fight against others that have already settled in our bodies.

The lack of zinc in food is a serious problem , which according to the World Health Organization, is linked to many cases of death, since this mineral plays an important role in our immune system. The problem is more common in less developed countries, but a lack of zinc also affects richer countries. According to the WHO, the minimum zinc intake is 7 mg per day for women and nine for men, but it can vary with age. For older people, for example, the figure rises to eight for women and 11 for men.

Functions of zinc in the body

The main function of zinc in the body occurs in the immune system. Zinc is important for the synthesis of immune cells and their protective measures against viruses, bacteria and fungi.

According to the WHO, people who do not consume sufficient amounts of zinc are more likely to suffer the action of infectious agents , and therefore, patients spend more time with the disease compared to those who have an adequate intake of zinc.

Zinc also protects the body by having an antioxidant action, reducing the amount of free radicals in the body . This type of molecule negatively affects the functions of cells, increasing the chances of developing different types of cancer.

Additionally, approximately 100 different enzymes need zinc in order to catalyze the chemical reactions that maintain efficient cellular functions. Therefore, zinc plays an important role in our immunization, helping practically the entire body to function better.

The importance of zinc in infant nutrition

Zinc is even more important for children since adequate consumption of this mineral is essential for healthy growth. According to the WHO , some of the biggest causes of infant mortality are diarrhea (which still causes 18% of child deaths in the world) and pneumonia , two problems that are directly related to a lack of zinc.“The immune system of children is more fragile than that of adults, so a diet rich in zinc is essential,” says the nutritionist. To get an idea of ​​the importance of zinc in a child’s diet, one of the actions undertaken by the World Health Organization to reduce cases of infant mortality in poor countries is to include zinc supplements in the diet . Since this measure was adopted in the late 1980s, deaths from diarrhea in the world of children under five years of age have dropped from 4.5 million to 1.8 million in 2006.

According to a survey conducted by UNICEF in 2009, zinc supplements for pregnant women could prevent many complications during delivery and even help the baby gain weight after birth, reducing the risk of infection. Therefore, it is recommended that 12 mg of zinc be consumed daily during pregnancy.

Health Benefits of Zinc

Improves immunity

Among all the vitamins and minerals with micronutrients, it is the one that has the greatest effect on the immune system . It is able to reduce the duration and severity of the flu.

The mineral is also involved in the activity of more than 300 enzymes. It is essential for proper cell function and participates in the synthesis and breakdown of proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids.

We recommend that you read the article on essential vitamins for health .

Benefits the cardiovascular system

The presence of zinc is connected to lower clamping blood vessels. It helps regulate the substances involved in the control of blood pressure.

It is also essential for repairing blood vessel damage caused by oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Therefore, the risk of atherosclerosis decreases.

Helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease

Zinc integrates an enzyme called superoxide dismutase, which protects us against oxidative stress . When it is not present, the brain is very vulnerable to the action of free radicals, a factor that increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Helps in depression

This nutrient was found to improve depression , according to research with young women. Apparently, it facilitates certain synapses (signals exchanged between neurons), and this would help eliminate the symptoms of intense melancholy.

For more information on depression.

Control diabetes

The mineral has a close relationship with the storage and release of insulin. Zinc deficiency accelerates the process of resistance to this hormone, which leaves us more prone to diabetes.

Furthermore, supplementation of this mineral has been shown to have a positive impact on the control of diabetic retinopathy – in which the carrier of the disease has their vision threatened.

Check out our article on diabetes.

Helps in the healing process

Zinc deficiency affects the repair of cut tissues. This is because zinc participates in the production of collagenase , the enzyme responsible for the production of collagen – a kind of cement in the skin. It is no wonder that healing ointments are made with this substance.

Excellent for pregnant women

Zinc is so crucial in the pregnancy stage that the consumption recommendation is raised: 8 to 11 milligrams per day. The deficiency of this substance can cause intrauterine infection, interrupt fetal development and contribute to the low birth weight of the baby.

Zinc may help “keep” the child in the womb until the 40th week of pregnancy , when his little body is ready to face the world.

Zinc is good for colds

Taking zinc up to 24 hours after the first cold symptoms onset, for 3 days, decreased the duration of symptoms, according to a clinical study.

The dose was 12.5 mg to 15 mg of zinc every 2-3 hours during the cold period. Zinc can be said to cut the duration of cold symptoms in half . This treatment should not exceed 4 days.

May help with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Women who consume more than 10 mg per day of zinc appear to have fewer PMS symptoms . However, the study focused on the influence of iron in preventing PMS. The daily dose of zinc (and other minerals for the effective treatment of PMS, such as magnesium, calcium and iron) can be obtained through the diet or through supplements.

Check it out in our article on natural treatments for PMS.

Helps treat acne

Through the action of key enzymes, zinc has anti-inflammatory action against acne . Zinc also decreases the production of sebum, one of the main triggers of acne, by inhibiting the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase, responsible for converting testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.

More information on natural treatments for acne.

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

Age Men Women
1 to 3 years 3.0 mg 3.0 mg
4 to 8 years 5.0 mg 5.0 mg
9 to 13 years 8.0 mg 7.0 mg
14-50 years 8.0 mg 7.0 mg
> 50 years 11.0 mg 8.0 mg

Since zinc participates in various functions of our body, its deficiency has consequences. Due to the weakness in the immune system, wounds that do not heal, there is difficulty in tasting salty foods, skin problems (psoriasis), increased levels of glucose in the blood, dry and yellowish skin and poor functioning of the liver.

“Among all these problems, the biggest concern is the effect that a lack of zinc has on the immune system. This means that the person is much more exposed to all infectious diseases “, explains the nutritionist.

Main sources of zinc in food

A balanced diet provides the daily amounts of zinc so that our body is protected. The best foods with this nutrient are oysters , but other more common sources can be part of your daily menu.

A diet with oilseeds , such as nuts and dried fruits, all kinds of meats, rice and whole grain bread , will make your immune system work better. Pumpkin seeds, oats, beans, and whole milk are also good sources of zinc.

However, in some cases , diet alone cannot make up for the lack of zinc in the body. Food is always the best option, but in some cases, with the advice of a doctor, it is necessary to take supplements to meet the daily intake of this mineral.

In addition, according to the nutritionist, people suffering from acrodermatitis enteropathica (lack of absorption of zinc from the intestine), diabetes , eating disorders, and intestinal and kidney diseases may need zinc supplements . to compensate for the lack of absorption caused by these problems.

Powerful Food Combinations With Zinc

Food Weight Amount of zinc (mg)
oysters 86 g 38
Walnuts 100g 4.0
Chestnuts 100g 4.0
Beef 130g 4.0
Chicken meat 180g 1.5
Integral rice 40g 1.0
Oat bran 94g 2.9
Whole milk 240g 1.0
Bean 50g 1.15
Pumpkin seed 20g 1.3
Wholemeal bread 80g 1.6

According to the United States Department of Agriculture , multiple food servings can be combined to meet the daily mineral quota. To illustrate this recommendation, it can be said that one serving of beef (4 mg of zinc), two of rice (2 mg) and two of milk (2 mg) per day provide a total of 8 mg of zinc, which is the consumption indicated for adolescents and adults.

Consume a large quantity of bread (1.6 mg), oat bran (2.9 mg), two servings of brown rice (2.0 mg), beans (1.15 mg) or chicken (1.5 mg) is enough for an adult to reach the recommended amount of this mineral.

Side effects of excess zinc

Although this mineral is essential for your body, its consumption in excess (more than 50 milligrams a day for weeks), can be harmful . This is because of the mineral’s relationship to copper molecules in the body. “When zinc levels are too high in our bloodstream, the amount of copper decreases, leaving the person disabled from another mineral,” explains the nutritionist.

The main symptoms of excess zinc and lack of copper in the body are diarrhea, drowsiness , lethargy, nausea and frequent vomiting. “So before taking supplements, what you need to know is if you really need them and what is the correct dose,” says the expert.

Zinc supplementation when we are deficient

Your blood zinc level can be measured by a simple blood test . This test can also help in the identification and diagnosis of certain diseases.

The official daily recommendation for zinc is approximately 8 mg . Most of the supplements sold in pharmacies contain doses compatible with this recommendation. However, some experts believe that these doses are very low, especially for people with a greater deficiency who want to return to adequate levels. Therefore, there are also doses of 30mg, 50mg and more, which are generally regarded as safe and are sold normally. Having said that, it must be remembered that, like other complementary vitamins or minerals, it is important that you do not overuse it.

If you want to take zinc supplements, ideally it is the chelated type . Chelated zinc allows for more efficient absorption by the body. To buy zinc supplements (with a variety of doses), Amazon is a good option both for quality and for the quantity of offers they have.

  • Solgar Zinc 50 mg 100 tabs
  • Z-MAx – 200 capsules with zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6 supplement – Reduce fatigue, improve sleep, maintain testosterone level, stimulate protein synthesis – Use for 3 months
  • ZINC 50 mg 365 Tablets (12 Month Supply), 1 Zinc Gluconate Easy-To-Eat Tablet Per Day by Nu U Nutrition
  • Zinc Citrate 100 x 50mg Tablets 1-a-day
  • ZMA 90 capsules of Zinc Magnesium and vitamin B6
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Kathie Sand always saw the world of beauty as the terrain on which to build her professional career, a goal that was clear to her when she was only 15 years old. Her great concern to expand knowledge led her to settle in Paris where she studied hand in hand with the best beauty professionals and with the most advanced techniques for skin care.

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