No other mineral has such a powerful effect on the immune system, skin and hair than zinc. However, up to 50 percent of the world’s population does not absorb enough of it. Learn how to spot a flaw and what you can do about it.
What do reproduction, wound healing, muscle building, and hair growth have in common? You all need Mineral Zinc to run smoothly! Without zinc, training hours in the gym would be for the cat, sperm production would decrease, and you would not have hair growth. Fortunately, zinc is found in every cell in the body, although some people lack it.
Read in this article why people are getting too little zinc, how to recognize a deficiency, and how diet and supplements can be compensated.
What is zinc?
Zinc is essential for your health – it performs the tasks of every cell in the body. Since your body cannot produce the required trace mineral, you must take it daily with food. There are two to three grams of zinc in the body. The largest proportion of 1.5 milligrams is found in the muscles.
Good to know: On average, a person loses three to four milligrams of zinc each day through stool and urine. In this way, the intestines and kidneys prevent excess zinc.
How does zinc affect the body?
As a so-called coenzyme (auxiliary molecule), zinc turns out to be a versatile mineral. Zinc grows hair and heals wounds. After eating, it helps the pancreas produce insulin, which lowers blood sugar. Zinc also stimulates testosterone production and activates certain proteins for muscle building. If cells in the body are damaged, zinc supports cell division into new ones. Zinc strengthens our immune system and is therefore especially important in the first years of life.
Together with the mineral selenium, zinc binds to heavy metals such as lead that build up in your body. An insoluble complex is formed from minerals and heavy metals, in which heavy metals lose their toxic effect. Thus, minerals protect your body, especially nerve cells, from heavy metal damage.
Did you know? If your body did not have zinc, you would not be able to form the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase. This enzyme breaks down alcohol. Without alcohol dehydrogenase, every glass of wine will lead to alcohol poisoning.
Zinc and sensory perception
Zinc deficiency can impair your sense of smell. Therefore, some researchers suspect that zinc plays a role in the sense of smell. Our vision is also largely dependent on zinc: a trace element supports the transport of vitamin A from the liver to the retina. Without vitamin A, our eyes would not be able to perceive light, that is, we would not be able to see.
What is the daily requirement for zinc?
According to the recommendations of the German Nutrition Society , men should take ten milligrams of zinc every day, but women only take seven milligrams. During pregnancy, the daily requirement increases to ten milligrams because, on the one hand, the woman supplies the unborn baby with zinc and she loses large amounts due to the strong urge to urinate. Breastfeeding mothers have an increased need for eleven milligrams.
The National Institutes of Health recommends a similar minimum intake of zinc, ranging from eight milligrams per day for adult women and eleven milligrams for men and pregnant women.
Which foods contain zinc?
Zinc is sourced from both animal and plant products. However, animal products contain significantly more zinc on average. At the same time, your body can better absorb zinc from animal products than plant foods.
|Amount of zinc in milligrams per 100 grams||Food|
|10-25 milligrams||Oysters; Wheat germ, wheat bran|
|5-10 milligrams||Edam, Emmental, hen’s egg; Pork liver, beef; Sunflower seeds, flaxseed, soy flour, cocoa powder|
|2.5-5 milligrams||Tilsiter, Gouda, Parmesan;
rye, wheat, barley, millet, oats, quinoa, peas, lentils, beans, Brazil nuts, peanuts; Walnut, chia seeds;
Modified according to: “Practice Nutrition Table; Small weed of Expert Susi ”
Your small intestine cannot absorb 100 percent zinc from food. For example, it absorbs 40 percent from meat, milk and cheese, while the figure for vegetables & Co. is 20 percent.
Causes of zinc deficiency
Zinc deficiency can be linked to a variety of health problems and risks. In particular, children need an adequate supply of the mineral: a deficiency leads to diarrhea and pneumonia – the most common cause of death among children under the age of five worldwide.
Climate change could have a negative impact on our zinc supply: it is believed that due to high carbon dioxide emissions, the zinc content in food products is significantly reduced. The plant and animal products we import from Southeast Asia or South Africa also contain less zinc as the soil is low in zinc.
What are the causes of zinc deficiency?
If you sweat a lot, whether in sports or in good weather, you lose a lot of zinc through sweating – you must compensate for these losses with a balanced diet. a vegetarian or vegan diet can also lead to a deficiency, as the small intestine is less likely to absorb zinc from plant foods. If you have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease), the absorption of nutrients in your intestines is impaired. Prolonged stress can also lead to zinc deficiency.
Did you know that people with diabetes are at high risk of developing zinc deficiency? High blood sugar leads to frequent urination: poorly adapted diabetics excrete much more zinc in their urine.
Anti-nutrients in plant foods
Grains, nuts, and legumes also contain zinc, but they also contain so-called anti-nutrients. They interfere with optimal intestinal absorption of zinc. This group of substances includes:
- Phytate in whole grains (exception: sourdough bread)
- Phosphate in cola, meat, fish
- Histidine in dairy products
- Oxalate in spinach, rhubarb, beets
- Tannins in wine, black and green tea
Phytate forms insoluble complexes with zinc, so zinc cannot work in the body. To reduce the phytate content, you can soak.
a few hours before cooking.
Good to Know: Zinc requirements have increased by 50 percent in people on a purely plant-based diet. Plant foods contain anti-nutrients, so they are difficult to absorb.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency
Zinc acts throughout the body, so with a deficiency, symptoms appear in all possible areas. If zinc is absent from the body, hair can fall off and nails can become brittle. Other symptoms:
- Slow wound healing
- Night blindness, faint odor
- Fatigue, depressive mood
- Increased susceptibility to infections, diarrhea
- High weight loss, muscle cramps
- Erectile dysfunction
What to do in case of zinc deficiency?
Optimal zinc supply is a matter of proper nutrition. You can control this by knowing which foods contain zinc and which sources your body can absorb particularly well. It gets more difficult when it comes to taking supplements. There are big differences in quality and therefore in how well the body absorbs the drugs.
Very important: Use drugs only if you can prove you are zinc deficient. Otherwise there is a risk of excess zinc.
Nutrients for better zinc absorption
Animal protein supports zinc absorption. Together they form a complex that the body can use very well. Other nutrients that support zinc absorption are:
- Histidine in almonds, peanuts, beef, pork
- Methionine in quark, almonds, cod, mackerel, tuna
- Cysteine in almonds, peanuts, beef, pork
- Citric acid in apples, pears, berries, citrus fruits
If you have a proven zinc deficiency, you can take zinc supplements for help. You can find zinc preparations in any form imaginable: effervescent tablets, powder, capsules, lozenges, drops, or ointments. A good zinc preparation is not the form of the preparation, but the zinc compound. Zinc is only available in combination with other substances that are believed to improve zinc absorption.
Important: In addition to your regular medications, you can also buy zinc nasal sprays. However, they are not recommended. These zinc nasal sprays can worsen or, in the worst case, lead to odor loss.
Which zinc compound is the best
Several studies show that the following zinc compounds have optimal bioavailability:
- Zinc Histidine is the only compound with no known side effects
- Zinc Picolinate
- Zinc bisglycinate
- Zinc gluconate
- Zinc sulfate – only works if taken on an empty stomach
Bioavailability describes how well your body absorbs nutrients and how well it can work in the body.
Minerals compete with each other and can prevent each other from entering the bloodstream through the small intestine. Thus, zinc supplementation can reduce the effects of antibiotics, rheumatism such as penicillamines, and diuretics such as thiazide diuretics. Therefore, the use of zinc supplements is recommended.
Zinc & Biotin
Biotin is often added to zinc supplements. This vitamin is also involved in hair growth, a lack of biotin can lead to hair loss. Zinc also boosts the activity of biotin, making it beneficial to use together. Consume biotin in the form of whole grains, mushrooms and meat in your diet.
The body cannot absorb as many minerals at the same time as they interfere with the absorption of each other. Therefore, the following supplements should not be taken at the same time: iron, calcium and copper. Researchers have found that Eisen is not absorbed over a long period of time if large amounts of zinc are consumed at the same time.
Zinc and Skin Diseases
In dermatology (dermatology) zinc is gaining popularity. Dermatological studies have shown that zinc helps treat skin conditions such as warts, acne, rosacea, and basal cell carcinoma. Zinc is used topically (topically), in the form of ointments and creams, or orally, for example, in the form of tablets.
Zinc is also used in the cosmetics industry: sunscreens and anti-dandruff shampoos contain zinc as additional protection from light and to prevent dandruff. The mineral also reduces oil production in the skin. Oily skin forms an ideal breeding ground for bacteria that can lead to infections, especially if the immune system is weakened by zinc deficiency.
Good to know: Zinc ointments with zinc oxide can help with sunburn. Zinc oxide helps damaged skin heal again.
Zinc deficiency is not the only health hazard. Too much zinc is also harmful to you. The safe upper limit is 25 mg zinc per day. If you exceed this limit for several days in a row, the first complaints may appear. This is usually due to too much dietary supplementation – it is unlikely that he is consuming too much zinc through his diet.
If you take 225 to 450 mg at a time, you may experience severe vomiting. Possible consequences of excess zinc are gastrointestinal complaints, kidney dysfunction, diarrhea, hair loss, and iron deficiency anemia. Too much zinc interferes with the absorption of iron, as a result of which blood formation no longer occurs properly: anemia occurs.
The trace element copper also loses its effect due to excess zinc. As a result of this copper deficiency, numbness and weakness appear in the limbs. The same is true for calcium and magnesium, which zinc competes with in the body: calcium and magnesium deficiencies can lead to bone loss, impaired sensory transmission and a huge decrease in performance.
Excess zinc can lower HDL cholesterol. This is considered healthy cholesterol. HDL cholesterol repairs damage to our cell membranes and removes the harmful LDL cholesterol that causes arterial calcification.
Zinc poisoning can occur in people who use dental glue on a daily basis. It usually contains zinc. Do not use more than 1.5 grams of cream per day.
Zinc supplements and colds
Many companies advertise zinc as a miracle cure during the cold season. According to advertising promises, it reduces annoying complaints such as dripping nose, unbearable throat, and constant sneezing. One thing is clear: the immune system cannot function without zinc. Hence the assumption that the mineral can drive away the cold.
According to the German Nutrition Society (DGE), the situation with the study of zinc and its effect on the common cold is far from clear. DGE recommends using zinc supplements only for colds if you can prove you are zinc deficient. A 2012 study by the Cochrane Collaboration again showed that 75 mg of zinc per day shortened the cold time by one day. However, this only happened if study participants took the drug within 24 hours of the first cold symptoms.
Zinc deficiency and excess zinc create problems for your health. However, you can counter both by checking to see if you have an optimal zinc supply. For example, you can check your zinc levels with a blood test.
How can I measure zinc?
You can also check your zinc levels yourself, for example using the cerascreen® mineral test. All you need is a small prick in your finger to fill the tube with a little blood. Your sample will be evaluated in our laboratory, after which you will receive a report of the results. This tells you if you have insufficient supply and how best to maintain your mirror.
Some vendors measure zinc levels using hair testing. A three-year study concluded that this method can also provide information about the current mineral reserve. Especially for children who eat too little, this measurement has proven to be suitable for developing further therapeutic measures for them.
Zinc: at a glance
What are the tasks of zinc?
Zinc is an essential mineral found throughout your body, but especially in your muscles. The mineral is important for cell division, wound healing, hair growth, blood sugar regulation, and the immune system.
What foods contain zinc?
Oysters are especially rich in zinc. The human body can use zinc from animal products such as cheese, eggs and organ meats better than from plant foods.
Who is particularly at risk for zinc deficiency?
Athletes, pregnant and lactating women, vegetarians and vegans, and people with inflammatory bowel disease have a high risk of having too low zinc levels. They either lose large amounts of zinc, or their intestines cannot absorb enough zinc.
What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency?
Hair loss, skin problems, diarrhea and slow wound healing are symptoms of zinc deficiency.
What You Should Know About Zinc Supplementation?
Only take supplements if you are deficient in zinc. Otherwise, there is a risk of zinc poisoning. Most suitable are compounds such as histidine, zinc gluconate and bisglycinate. It is not recommended to take large amounts with medicines or other minerals at the same time. Therefore, the appointment should be discussed with the doctor.