With all the various zinc supplements at your local health store you may be wondering, "Why is zinc good for your body?" Aren't you getting enough through your diet as-is? Will taking extra zinc in addition to your regular multivitamin have potential downsides? These are good questions worth exploring.
Why is Zinc Good for Your Body
Zinc is among the most important minerals in the body, right up there with calcium and magnesium, since it plays an important role in many cellular functions. It is also important for hair and skin health, eyesight, cognitive functions, and even taste and smell.
However, the most immediately observable effect is the impact on your immune system. Research has shown that zinc has a proven ability to fight colds and possibly shave days off the illness. Needless to say, this effect is good news all around, providing benefits and promoting good health across the board.
For men, zinc is particularly interesting since it has a direct link to the body's natural testosterone production. This hormone is what makes a man a man in everything from musculature and facial hair to performance in the bedroom. Zinc is also important for the prevention of estrogen production, which not only counteracts the natural testosterone but also increases the risk of heart problems and obesity.
For women, research suggests sufficient zinc intake may take the edge off PMS symptoms. Pregnant women should also check their zinc intake, since lack of zinc almost doubles the risk of low birth weight. Lactating women transfer zinc to their babies; lack of zinc has been shown to make babies grow slower.
Lack of zinc has also been shown to have a clear link to anorexia and bulimia. Zinc has a big impact on how hunger is perceived; remove zinc and appetite dips. Remove the appetite, and skipping or purging meals on a regular basis--that would have provided the much-needed zinc--becomes that much easier. Thus the vicious circle feeds itself.
Why You Might Not Get Enough
Some medical conditions inhibit zinc absorption, notably chronic liver disease, diabetes, sickle cell disease, chronic renal disease, and various types of absorption-related maladies of the gut. Vegetarians and those with sensitive digestive systems resulting in frequent diarrhea should also be careful. If you suspect you might be deficient, talk to your doctor about getting a blood test.
Where To Find Zinc
If you're a meat-eater, zinc usually isn't a big problem, but there are plenty of decent vegetarian sources too. Here are some foods rich in zinc:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
For best absorption, spread the intake over the day. Why is zinc good for your body in smaller doses? Studies are inconclusive, but it seems the body is simply better equipped to handle small, bite-size chunks than the full daily dose in one sitting.
How Much Is Too Much
The RDI for zinc is 11 mg per day for adult men and 9 mg per day for adult women (except pregnant/lactating women, in which case it's 11 and 12 mg per day, respectively). The upper limit for adult men and women is 40 mg/day before it becomes toxic (including pregnant/lactating women).