Zinc is one of the trace minerals needed by the body. It is present in all cells and tissues and performs a wide variety of actions to keep the body healthy and free from diseases. Zinc is involved in the creation of enzymes, preserving a healthy skin, maintenance of a strong immune system, and keeping maximum sexual function in men. In total, the human body contains 2-3 grams of zinc and it is distributed to different organs. 60 percent of zinc is found in the skeletal muscles, 30 percent in the bones, and smaller amounts are present in the brain, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, lungs, and prostate.
Because of the vital functions that zinc performs, there should be constant supply of zinc from dietary and supplement sources. There are a lot of foods that contain zinc. The most abundant dietary source of zinc are oysters, modest amounts are also present in meats depending on the animal and tissue type. Other food sources of zinc are eggs, dairy products, peas, wheat germ, peanuts, cereals, fish, poultry products, shellfish, whole grains, and lima beans. As supplement, zinc is marketed in different forms like lozenges, capsules, and pills. Zinc is also a common content of many multivitamins. The average daily requirement for zinc is 8-15 mg per day.
Deficiency of zinc poses several potential serious health problems. It results to retarded growth, weight loss, lethargy, dermatitis, delayed wound healing, alopecia, hypogonadism, impaired reproduction, and immune suppression leading to recurrent infections.
Zinc toxicity can be classified as either acute or chronic. Of the two, chronic toxicity is more common and is due to prolonged intake of zinc above 100-300 mg per day. Symptoms of chronic zinc toxicity are low copper levels, impaired iron function, low immune system, and low levels of the high density lipoproteins (HDLs) or the good cholesterol. Acute toxicity symptoms are metallic taste, fatigue, fever, lethargy, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and muscle pains.