Although Zinc may not generate the same buzz as other vitamins and minerals, it does support multiple key functions throughout the body. Sure – it is perhaps considered a secondary ingredient in vitamin supplements, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t essential to everyday health, as well as certain key areas of biological function!
Despite being classified as a trace mineral, Zinc is involved in multiple areas throughout your body. Although the human body only needs small amounts of Zinc at a time, Zinc is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions. Harvard Health tells us that Zinc plays a major role in the body with support for DNA creation, cell growth, tissue repair, sexual maturity, and immune function. Even brain function and mood is now being tied to Zinc. And Zinc is also a key part of some men-centric formulas due to its support for male reproductive health.
Zinc is an essential mineral naturally present in foods and included in dietary supplements. And in the past couple of decades, Zinc has been featured in multiple lozenge formulas that are designed to support your immune system.
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of Zinc is the support it brings to your immune system. Although we’ll dive into this in greater detail, it is important to know that Zinc helps carry out multiple reactions throughout the body. However, not all Zinc is built the same. In fact, there are several forms of this mineral – some of which have greater bioavailability than others. And just as is the case with other vitamins, minerals, and co-factors, zinc absorption is critical to its effectiveness.
What Exactly Does Zinc Do?
As mentioned, Zinc is necessary for almost 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions. It plays a vital role in the creation of DNA, proper cell growth, protein building, tissue healing, and supporting a healthy immune system. Plus, it is not uncommon for Zinc to be featured in supplements for men, especially when it comes to promoting sexual wellness.
The Journal of Reproduction & Infertility published a study titled, “Zinc is an Essential Element for Male Fertility: A Review of Zn Roles in Men’s Health, Germination, Sperm Quality, and Fertilization.” The findings explained how adequate Zinc content of seminal plasma is needed in men’s health, including fertility. Conversely, too much Zinc could have a negative effect on sperm quality, according to the study.
The Role of Zinc in Immune System Health
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of Zinc is its support for immune health. Zinc is included in over-the-counter supplements designed to support the immune system, and for good reason!
Zinc, along with copper, iron, and calcium, are “essential for adequate immune function,” according to a study published in Nutrients, a peer-reviewed human nutrition journal. Unfortunately, the same study mentioned two billion people worldwide are impacted by a Zinc deficiency – with nearly 30% of the elderly population being deficient in the crucial nutrient. Although the human body only require trace amounts of Zinc per day, the data shows people around the world are still not getting enough of this important mineral.
This clinical study, titled “Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function,” emphasized the importance of Zinc, especially when it comes to the immune system. Referring to Zinc as a “gatekeeper” for immune function is appropriate because, as the study concluded, “Zinc flux, zinc wave, and homeostatic zinc signals control the adequate function of innate as well as adaptive immunity.”
Although a Zinc deficiency may lead to immune system concerns, an excess of the mineral could also spell trouble. In fact, the clinical study mentioned that too much Zinc could lead to an impairment of the immune system similar to the issues that stem from a deficiency. Like other vitamins and minerals, too little – or too much – of something may lead to issues down the road. The National Institute of Health considers 40 mg of Zinc per day to be the upper limit.
The final point of interest from this study is the continued emphasis on making sure the appropriate amount of Zinc is consumed each day. The 2017 study supported this idea by explaining how a “balanced zinc homeostasis is crucial for either defending against invading pathogens or protecting the human body against an overreactive immune system.”
Where to Find Zinc
Zinc is present in many food sources including seafood, dairy, and meat, among other options. And it is also available in daily nutritional supplements, including multivitamins and specialty formulas.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 3 ounces of cooked, breaded, and fried oysters provide a hearty 74 mg per serving, while 3 ounces of cooked Alaska King crab yields 6.5 mg per serving. Furthermore, 3 ounces of cooked lobster will get you 3.4 mg per serving.
For the meat lovers, 3 ounces of braised beef provides 7 mg of Zinc and the same amount of the cooked dark meat found on chicken registers as 2.4 mg per serving.
Although dairy doesn’t provide the same amount of Zinc as seafood or meat, it is still a feasible option. For example, 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt contains 1.7 mg of Zinc per serving, while ounce of Swiss cheese provides 1.3 mg per serving.
But as you can see, except for oysters, you would have to eat a lot of meat, seafood, or dairy to get the minimum RDA of 11 mg of zinc for an adult.
Although the aforementioned clinical studies warn us of the possible effects a Zinc deficiency might cause, it is always a good idea to check in with your doctor to see exactly how much Zinc you should consume on a daily basis. That being said, it is a relief to know that Zinc is present in many common food sources and dietary supplements!
The Different Forms of Zinc
Vitamins and minerals often come in different forms, and Zinc is no different. Although each form of Zinc all trace back to one single element, certain forms are more bioavailable than others. Like other minerals, people turn to each form to support different functions in the body. With that in mind, let’s go over some of the top forms of Zinc:
OptiZinc® is a patented, bioavailable form of Zinc closely associated with supplements that support fertility and prostate health in men. Source Naturals, the official manufacturer, explains that OptiZinc® is Zinc Monomethionine – a combination of zinc and methionine – an essential amino acid. And given its high absorption rate, OptZinc® also makes a great choice for general daily zinc intake.
Sulfate is a second form of Zinc that is quite common in supplements containing the mineral. Like other forms, sulfate is used to treat and prevent a Zinc deficiency. It is an inorganic compound also known as “white vitriol.” One interesting tidbit is the fact that Zinc Sulfate is on the World Health Organization’s List Of Essential Medicines – an informative guide featuring the most important medication needed in a basic health system.
Zinc Oxide is commonly found in skin cream, lotion, ointment, and some supplements. According to Cleveland Clinic, Zinc Oxide is used to remedy minor skin irritation such as the common burn, cut, and diaper rash. Zinc Oxide topical cream, for example, can be retrieved from your local drug store without a prescription. Unlike other forms of the same mineral, Zinc Oxide is typically utilized in topical form and applied to a specific area of the body.
The last form of Zinc we’ll cover is citrate. Like sulfate, this particular form of Zinc is included in supplements found in your ordinary drugstore. However, one study demonstrated a significant difference in absorption among Zinc types. For instance, the principle finding of this particular study was that absorption of Zinc Citrate was relatively high compared to other forms.
The Final Verdict On Zinc
Although Zinc routinely takes a backseat to other “powerhouse” vitamins and minerals, its importance should not be understated. Although Zinc is a trace mineral – meaning the human body only needs to consume a small amount per day – it is involved in numerous reactions throughout your body.
For instance, Zinc is a gatekeeper for the immune system. Zinc is considered essential for adequate immune function and is involved in over 100 enzymatic reactions throughout the body. And it is also essential to DNA formation, cellular growth, and tissue health. Plus, there is the male reproductive health and prostate support that comes from Zinc. This is why it is important to consume the appropriate amount of Zinc each day.