Amazing Facts About Zinc

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Zinc And Health
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Zinc has been a well known requirement for nearly all living beings for hundreds of years. This mineral, retained in trace amounts in human bodies, are commonly associated with growth and proper development. In fact, the discovery of its role in living beings was noted in individuals who experienced abnormal growth retardation that was remedied by ingestion of compensatory amounts of zinc. Especially vital for children, zinc is a requirement for normal growth and development.

Zinc is used as a remedy for the common cold. In a study conducted on school children who took the recommended amount of zinc for five months, incidence of the subjects catching a cold were decreased. [1] In effect, it also reduced absenteeism as well as the need for prescription antibiotics. Zinc is also used for reduction in severity of a cold, in the event that you catch it. If taken 24 hours within onset of cold symptoms, the duration of being sick, as well as the severity of the disease was lessened for children and adults alike.

Zinc protects against respiratory infections as well as diarrhea, which happen to be the two most common causes of death in children all over the world. [2] Doctors worldwide prescribe zinc supplements for children even at their first bout of diarrhea, since it also prevents the recurrence of these ailments. The World Health Organization highly recommends the use of zinc supplements in diarrhoeal control programs conducted in third world countries. [3]

This mineral is an active component of almost all the digestive processes, including that of lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates. [4] Without zinc, our bodies won’t be able to use the micronutrients needed for the maintenance of major organs such as the liver and the heart. However, the human body can survive several months without zinc, taking the zinc it needs to function from our bones and tissues. Although the effects of running out of zinc in the body can be dreadful.

Zinc Deficiency

Deficiencies in zinc affect the skin and the intestines, as well as the majority of the skeletal, reproductive, and immune systems. For years, the most noted clinical feature of zinc deficiency is severe growth retardation. [5] Children suffered non-organic failure to thrive, manifested by an inability to reach healthy weight, delayed motor development, irritability, fatigue, lethargy, and learning difficulties. Adults who suffered zinc deficiencies were noted to have hypogonadism, macular degeneration, poor wound healing, and intellectual disability.

Zinc in Diet

The human body can only get approximately 20%-40% of zinc from the food that we eat. [6] Zinc is absorbed well when taken with food that also contains protein. Beef, lamb, poultry, and turkey are good sources of dietary zinc. Spinach, asparagus, shiitake and crimini mushrooms, as well as seeds and legumes contain high amounts of zinc as well. However, they aren’t as readily absorbed by the body as the zinc from animal meat. Vegans and vegetarians may have to take zinc supplements to get the recommended daily intake. Post adolescent males and pregnant women should have at least 11 milligrams of zinc while post adolescent females should get 8 milligrams. Infants should get 2 milligrams until they are six months of age. After which, they should be getting 3 milligrams until they’re 3 years old. Children ages 4-8 years should be getting 5 milligrams, and children ages 9-13 years should be getting 8 milligrams of zinc.

Factors that affect zinc absorption are pregnancy, skin disorders, and other diseases that affect the immune system, kidneys, liver, and heart. People who suffer from metabolic disorders and cancer should also ask their doctor for the right zinc dosage, as well as the possibility of zinc supplementation to ensure adequate zinc intake.


[1] Human Rhinoviruses. American Society for Microbiology.

[2] Oral Zinc and Common Childhood Infections – An update. Journal of
Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology.

[3] Introducing zinc in a diarrhoeal control programme. World Health Organization.

[4] Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition. Elsevier.

[5] Impact of the discovery of human zinc deficiency on health. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology.

[6] Zinc. University of Maryland Medical Center.

[7] Zinc. Mayo Clinic.

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By Mike Westerdal CPT

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