What's zinc, and what does it do?

Zinc is a nutrient people need to stay healthy. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It aids the immune system in fighting off invading germs and viruses. The body also needs zinc to generate proteins and DNA, the genetic material in cells. During pregnancy, infancy, and youth, the body needs zinc to grow and develop correctly. Zinc also helps wounds heal and is essential for appropriate senses of smell and taste.

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Zinc health benefits

Zinc, a nutrient found throughout the entire body, helps your immune system and metabolism function. Zinc is also essential to wound healing and your sense of smell and taste. With a diverse diet, your body usually gets enough zinc. 

People today use oral zinc to help treat colds, but it can reduce certain drugs' effectiveness and cause unwanted effects. Food sources of zinc include poultry, red meat, and fortified breakfast cereals. The recommended daily amount of zinc is 8 milligrams (mg) for girls and 11 mg for adult men. Researchers are studying zinc to determine its effects on the immune system. Scientists are also exploring possible connections between the health issues discussed below.

- Immune system and wound healing: The body's immune system requires zinc to perform its job. Older people and children in developing countries with low zinc levels may get a greater risk of growing pneumonia and other infections. Zinc also helps the skin remain healthy. Some men and women who have skin ulcers may benefit from zinc supplements, but only if they have low zinc levels.

- Diarrhea: Children in developing countries often die from diarrhea. Studies indicate that zinc supplements help reduce the signs and length of diarrhea in these kids, many of whom are zinc deficient or malnourished. The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that children with diarrhea take zinc for 10-14 days (20 mg/day, or 10 mg/day for babies under six weeks).

- The common cold: Some studies indicate that zinc lozenges or vitamins (but not zinc supplements in pill form) help accelerates recovery from the common cold and decrease its symptoms if taken within 24 hours of coming down with a cold. But more study is required to ascertain the ideal dose and kind of zinc and how long it needs to be taken before zinc can be advocated as a remedy for the common cold.

- Age-related macular degeneration: AMD or Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disorder that slowly causes vision loss. Research indicates that zinc might help slow AMD development. In a large study among elderly individuals with AMD who were at high risk of developing advanced AMD, people who took a daily nutritional supplement with 80 mg zinc, 500 milligrams vitamin C, 400 IU vitamin E, 15 milligrams beta-carotene, and 2 mg copper for approximately six years had a lower likelihood of developing advanced AMD and less vision loss than those who didn't take the nutritional supplement. Individuals who have or are developing the disease may want to talk to their physician about taking dietary supplements.

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Zinc side effects

Excess zinc signs include nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, and headaches. When folks take a lot of zinc for quite a long time, they occasionally have low copper levels, lower immunity, and reduced HDL cholesterol levels (the "good" cholesterol).

Zinc supplements can interfere and interact with medications that you take, and certain drugs can lower zinc levels in the body. Tell your physician about any dietary supplements and medications you take. They can let you know if these nutritional supplements may interfere with your prescription or over-the-counter medications or if the medicines might interfere with how your body absorbs, uses, or breaks down nutrients.

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Safety of zinc supplements

Zinc is normally safe. Oral zinc supplements may benefit individuals with low levels of zinc. Taken shortly after cold symptoms arise, zinc may also shorten the duration of a cold.

Oral zinc can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, indigestion, or diarrhea. When oral zinc is taken long-term and at large doses, it can lead to copper deficiency. Individuals with low aluminum levels may experience neurological problems, such as weakness and numbness in the legs and arms. The National Institutes of Health believes 40 mg of zinc per day to be the upper limit dose for adults and 4 milligrams of zinc each day for babies under age six weeks.

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Zinc daily recommended amounts

The amount of zinc you want each day depends upon your age. Average daily recommended amounts for different periods are recorded below in milligrams (mg):

Life Stage Recommended Amount

Birth to 12 months:    1-3 milligrams

Kids 1-13 years:    3-8 milligrams

Teens:    9 -11 mg

Adults :    8-11 mg

Most people in America get enough zinc from the foods that they consume. However, certain groups of people are more inclined than others to have trouble getting enough zinc:

- Vegetarians don't eat meat, which is a fantastic source of zinc. Additionally, the legumes and grains they typically consume have chemicals that keep zinc from being entirely absorbed by the body. Because of this, vegetarians may need to eat up to 50% more zinc than the recommended amounts.

- People who've had gastrointestinal surgery, such as weight loss surgery, or who have gastrointestinal ailments, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease. These conditions can reduce the amount of zinc that the body absorbs and increase the amount lost in the urine.

- Alcoholics because alcoholic drinks reduce the quantity of zinc that the body absorbs and raise the amount lost in the pee. Also, many alcoholics consume a limited amount and assortment of food, so they might not get enough zinc.

Zinc deficiency is rare in North America. It causes slow development in babies and children, delayed sexual development in adolescents, and male impotence. Zinc deficiency also causes baldness, diarrhea, skin and eyesores, and loss of appetite. Weight loss, wound healing problems, decreased ability to taste the food, and reduced alertness levels may also occur.

A number of these symptoms may be signals of issues aside from zinc deficiency. In case you have these symptoms, your physician can help determine whether you may have a zinc deficiency.

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Foods for zinc nourishment

Zinc is found in a vast array of foods. You can get recommended amounts of zinc by eating a variety of foods such as the following:

- Oysters, which would be the best source of zinc.

- Red meat, poultry, seafood like crab and lobsters, and fortified breakfast cereals are also good sources of zinc.

- Beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy products, which provide zinc.

Zinc is present in just about all multivitamin/mineral dietary supplements. Additionally, it is available alone or blended with calcium, magnesium, or other nutritional supplement ingredients. Dietary supplements can have several types of zinc, including zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate. It's not clear whether one form is far better than the others.

Zinc can be found in some oral over-the-counter goods, including those branded as homeopathic drugs for colds. Zinc can also be present in specific denture adhesive lotions. 

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Science & research of zinc on health?

Research on oral zinc for specific conditions reveals:

- Zinc deficiency. Individuals who have low levels of zinc seem to benefit most from zinc supplements. This is not common in America.

- Colds. Evidence indicates that if zinc lozenges or vitamin is taken within 24 hours after cold symptoms begin, the supplement can help shorten the duration of colds. However, the use of intranasal zinc has been linked with the loss of the sense of smell, in some cases long term or indefinitely.

Diarrhea. Oral zinc supplements can reduce diarrhea symptoms in children with low levels of zinc, like malnutrition. There is not enough evidence to recommend oral zinc for children with diarrhea who have a healthy, varied diet.

Age-related macular degeneration. Research indicates that oral zinc might slow the development of eye disease.

Zinc that is used topically is called zinc oxide. Zinc oxide cream, ointment, or paste is applied to the skin to prevent diaper rash and sunburn conditions.

- Wound healing. Individuals with skin ulcers and low levels of zinc may reap the benefits of oral zinc supplements.

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Zinc in a balanced diet

People should get most of their nutrients from food, advises the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Foods include vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other compounds that benefit health. Sometimes, fortified foods and nutritional supplements can provide nutrients that otherwise can be consumed in less-than-recommended quantities.

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References

1. Zinc: Fact sheet for consumers. (2019). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/

2. Sandusky-Beltran, L. A., et al. (2017). Supplementation with zinc in rats enhances memory and reverses an age-dependent increase in plasma copper. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5584546/

3. Wessels, Y., et al. (2020). The potential impact of zinc supplementation on COVID-19 pathogenesis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7365891/

4. Zinc: Fact sheet for health professionals. (2020). https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/

5. Clinical management of acute diarrhoea. (2004). https://www.unicef.org/nutrition/files/ENAcute_Diarrhoea_reprint.pdf

6. Fallah, A., et al. (2018). Zinc is an essential element for male fertility: A review of Zn roles in men's health, germination, sperm quality, and fertilization. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6010824/

7. Blasiak, J., et al. (2020). Zinc and autophagy in age-related macular degeneration. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7404247/

8. Cervantes, J., et al. (2017). The role of zinc in the treatment of acne: A review of the literature. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29193602/

9. Impact of antioxidants, zinc, and copper on cognition in the elderly: A randomized, controlled trial. (2004). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1473037/

10. Lin, P.-H., et al. (2018). Zinc in wound healing modulation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793244/

11. Gammoh, N. Z., et al. (2017). Zinc in infection and inflammation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5490603/

12. Hemilä, H. (2011). Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of colds: A systematic review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136969/

13. Achari, M., et al. (2020). Neurological symptoms in patients with zinc deficiency: A case series with documented blood levels. https://n.neurology.org/content/94/15_Supplement/5323

14. O’Connor, J.P., et al. (2020). Zinc as a therapeutic agent in bone regeneration. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7287917/

15. Olechnowicz, J., et al. (2018). Zinc status is associated with inflammation, oxidative stress, lipid, and glucose metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5754376/

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