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Zinc - Benefits, Deficiency Symptoms And Food Sources

The mineral zinc is present in every part of the body and has a wide range of functions. It helps with the healing of wounds and is a vital component of many enzyme reactions. Zinc is vital for the healthy working of many of the body's systems. It is particularly important for healthy skin and is essential for a healthy immune system and resistance to infection.

Our body contains about 2-3g of zinc. There are no specific storage sites known for zinc and so a regular supply in the diet is required. Zinc is found in all parts of our body, 60% is found in muscle, 30% in bone and about 5% in our skin. Particularly high concentrations are in the prostate gland and semen. Men need more zinc than women because male semen contains 100 times more zinc than is found in the blood. The more sexually active a man the more zinc he will require. The recommended amounts of zinc for adult men are 1/3 higher than those for women.

Benefits and functions of Zinc

Zinc is a component of insulin and over 100 enzymes, proteins, nucleic acids and hormones. It helps in the healing of wounds, tissue repair, growth, energy conversion and sexual development. Zinc is play an important role when used in connection with the following conditions:

  • Acne
  • Acrodermatitis enteropathica
  • Burns
  • Childhood intelligence (for deficiency)
  • Common cold
  • Down's syndrome
  • Immune Response
  • Low Fertility in Males
  • Osteoporosis
  • Night blindness
  • Wilson's disease (by interfering with body's ability to use essential mineral copper)
  • Wound healing (oral and topical)

Zinc also has some antioxidant properties, which means that it helps protect cells in the body from the potential damage caused by free radicals.

Recommended dosage of Zinc

The Recommended Dosage for Zinc are :-

  • Men - 15 mg.
  • Women - 15 mg.
  • Pregnant women - 30 mg.

Deficiency symptoms of Zinc

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, poor growth, weight loss, impaired taste or smell, poor wound healing, skin abnormalities (such as acne, atopic dermatitis and psoriasis), hair loss, lack of menstrual period, night blindness, hypogonadism and delayed sexual maturation, white spots on the fingernails and feelings of depression.

Food sources of Zinc

Good sources for zinc include dairy products, beans and lentils, yeast, liver, meats, mushrooms, oysters, pecans, poultry, nuts, seeds and wholegrain cereals. Pumpkin seeds provide one of the most concentrated vegetarian food sources of zinc.


Zinc in amounts greater than 200 mg a day can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Taking even 100 mg a day in supplement form over long periods can result in problems, including lowered levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol and diminished immune-system function.

An association between excessive zinc and Alzheimer's disease has been made but requires further investigation.

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