Zinc: Should You Be Supplementing?
Credit: PhilCampbell (cc)

With a hand in creating DNA and regulating cell communication through neurotranmission to name a few functions out of many, Zinc is truly an essential mineral. It's integral to immune system function, the healing of injuries, growth, synthesizing DNA, and the stimulation of a myriad enzymes. For herbivorous eaters, it's found in treenuts, beans, some seeds, and grains. Soaking plant-based sources (nuts, seeds, legumes) before consumption can inhibit any blocked absorption by their phytic acid content.

Consuming zinc has a great number of benefits, but the highest on the list is linked to its ability to optimize cognitive function. It works with b6 to regulate the activities of neurotransmitters, and it's thought to have a rather large hand in the thought and memory functions in the hippocampus portion of the brain's mossy fiber system.

Zinc also safeguards the liver from chemical dangers and the white blood cell function that works to fight infections and injuries of the physical system. It's connected to the enzymes and collagen of connective tissues involved in the healing process, protein synthesis, the framework of cell membranes, the function of the prostate, and organs involved in reproduction. It's involvement with oil glands is also important to preventing and eradicating acne. Proper absorption of vitamins E and A are dependent as well upon this vital mineral.


Signs Of Zinc Deficiency

If you're experiencing one or a combination of the following symptoms, your body may be zinc deficient:

  • Acne

  • Loss of appetite

  • Hair loss

  • Diarrhea

  • Stunted growth and development (incl. that of sexual development)

  • Impotence

  • Thinning, peeling, and white spots appearing on the nails

  • Lesions

  • Possible parasitic infections

  • Diabetes

Eating a balanced diet and including natural supplemental sources of zinc, like toasted wheat germ (12 mg per teaspoon) or tahini/sesame seed butter (4 mg per tablespoon), can help to get one back into balance if they're experiencing a deficiency. Synthetic supplements aren't as complete (holistic) as less isolated vitamins and minerals found in whole foods. Deciding whether or not to use them is up to you. If you're uncomfortable with ingesting synthetics, your best bet is to look to organic foods that contain what your body is calling for.

Pumpkin and squash seeds (6.6 mg/cup) and dried watermelon seeds (11 mg/cup), peanuts (8.8mg/cup), and even dark chocolate (usually 1 mg to a bar) provide excellent snack options that can help you to supplement this mineral. Quite a bit of zinc can be lost to perspiration. If you're always on the go, having these snacks handy can replenish you. Zinc can also be found in brewer's yeast, cayenne pepper, and wild yams.

If you do take zinc and iron supplements, avoid taking them at the same time so they don't cancel one another out.


How Much Is Too Much?

Men will typically need more zinc than females to provide enough zinc content to seminal fluids, but neither should ever go overboard. Zinc will improve fertility in males and protect reproductive cells when it is present in reasonable amounts. 9.5 mg is considered sufficient for men.

7 mg provides the female body with the zinc content it needs. Care should be taken to ensure the minimum amount of zinc is met while breastfeeding to prevent deficiency. Zinc overdosing is visible through vomiting and fever signs that point to high toxicity in the body.

Consistently taking in 100 mg of zinc on a daily basis can disrupt the immune system and bring about a deficiency of copper and iron. Even 60 mg of zinc can have contraindications with nutrients it comes into contact with in the body environment. Ensuring there's no intake of more than 40 mg per day for adults is strongly urged. The limit for children is inconclusive (though exceeding half of the adult minimum is likely unwise), but a limit of 4 mg per day is placed on infants according to results from limited studies.