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.
- Zinc is very important to promote good metabolism. It activates nearly 100 enzymes that act on the breakdown and synthesis of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
- Zinc gluconate in forms of lozenges and sprays are very effective in treating colds or shortening the duration of colds. Usually, these preparations contain 15-25 mg of zinc gluconate to be sucked or inhaled four times after the symptoms started.
- Zinc boosts the immune system to make the body capable of fighting infectious diseases.
- Adequate zinc levels support the good sexual function in men. There is high concentration of zinc in the prostate glands and the semen. A man who is more sexually active than normal also needs more zinc.
- Zinc supplements promote a younger and healthier skin.
- Zinc speeds up wound healing.
- In infants and children, 5-10 mg of zinc in three doses can treat diarrhea.
- Zinc therapy is the treatment of choice for sickle cell anemia.
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.