Zinc: Everything You Need to Know

Apr 5, 2023 by EMPWellness Admin


Zinc is a trace mineral, which means your body only needs small (trace) amounts to stay healthy. It’s also an antioxidant. “Antioxidants help prevent cell damage that contributes to heart disease, cancer and other serious health conditions,” says Zumpano. Zinc exists in cells throughout your body.

Zinc is involved in many aspects of cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of hundreds of enzymes, and it plays a role in enhancing immune function, protein and DNA synthesis, wound healing, and cell signaling and division. Zinc also supports healthy growth and development during pregnancy, infancy, childhood, and adolescence and is involved in the sense of taste.


Zinc is essential for cell growth and division, immune function, enzyme reactions, DNA synthesis, and protein production.


The total amount of zinc in the body is approximately 1.5 g in women and 2.5 g in men. Most of this zinc is stored in skeletal muscle and bone.


The many health benefits of zinc include:

  Shortens a cold

Zinc helps make immune system cells that fight germs. While zinc lozenges or supplements won’t keep you from catching a cold, they may help you get over a cold faster. Using zinc lozenges, gels or nasal sprays helped people feel better two days sooner than those who didn’t use zinc. But zinc didn’t lessen the severity of cold symptoms. And be on the lookout for side effects, including bad taste and nausea.

  Protects eyesight

Studies suggest that taking 80 milligrams (mg) of a zinc supplement, along with other vitamins for eye health, can lower the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and vision loss by 25%. People with AMD are at risk of losing their eyesight if the disease progresses.

Your retinas (the part of your eyes that converts light into the signals your brain uses to create images) have a high concentration of zinc. Extra zinc in the form of supplements may help protect your retinas against harmful free radicals that cause cell damage.

  Lowers blood sugar and cholesterol

For reasons that aren’t clear, people with Type 2 diabetes are often low in zinc. Some experts believe these low zinc levels may make the disease worsen quickly. Different studies suggest that zinc may lower blood sugar and high cholesterol in people with Type 2 diabetes. These conditions increase your risk of life-threatening strokes and heart disease. zinc may also improve blood sugar levels in people with gestational diabetes.

  Promotes wound healing

This mineral plays critical roles in collagen synthesis, immune function, and inflammatory response, it is necessary for proper healing.

In fact, your skin holds a relatively high amount — about 5% — of your body’s zinc content.

While a zinc deficiency can slow wound healing, supplementing with zinc can speed recovery in people with wounds.

Research is still underway to see if oral zinc supplements may speed the healing of diabetes-related foot ulcers and other skin ulcers. But zinc oxide that you apply directly to the skin (topical) is a proven diaper rash treatment. It also acts as a barrier to moisture, helping protect your baby’s sore bottom from additional irritation.

  Improves sperm quality

One small study found that people who were experiencing infertility saw an improvement in sperm quality after taking a supplement with zinc. The supplements contained other vitamins, so researchers aren’t sure exactly what role zinc played.



Decreases inflammation

Zinc decreases oxidative stress and reduces levels of certain inflammatory proteins in your body.


May help treat acne

Acne is a common skin disease that is estimated to affect up to 9.4% of the global population.

Acne is driven by obstruction of oil-producing glands, bacteria, and inflammation.

Studies suggest that both topical and oral zinc treatments can effectively treat acne by reducing inflammation, inhibiting the growth of P. acnes bacteria, and suppressing oil gland activity.


The amount of zinc you need each day depends on your age, sex assigned at birth and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Birth to 6 months         2 mg

Children 7 months to 36 months (3 years)      3 mg

Children 4 years to 8 years   5 mg

Children 9 years to 13 years 8 mg

Teens 14 to 18 years assigned female at birth          9 mg

Adult women      8 mg

Teens 14 to 18 years assigned male at birth   11 mg

Adult men 11 mg

Pregnant adults  11 mg

Breastfeeding adults    12 mg



   Foods high in zinc include:

Beef, Chicken and turkey, Eggs, Fortified milk and whole-grain cereals, pastas, breads and other products, Dark chocolate, Nuts, seeds and legumes like beans and lentils, Pork, Shellfish like oysters, crab and lobster.


“Almost all multivitamins, as well as many calcium and magnesium supplements, contain zinc,” notes Zumpano. “Read the label to know how much zinc you’re getting in a day when factoring in food sources.”

You may see different types of zinc on supplement labels, including zinc sulfate, zinc acetate and zinc gluconate. They’re all zinc. And there’s no evidence (yet) that suggests one form is better for you than the other.

Zinc is also a common ingredient in denture adhesive creams and many all-natural cold products.



Getting too much zinc can cause side effects like:


Copper and magnesium deficiencies.


Loss of appetite.

Low HDL (“good cholesterol”) levels.

Upset stomach, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Worsening immune function that leads to increased infections.

Always check with a healthcare provider before taking any supplement.

“Use caution with the use of standalone zinc supplements. You don’t want to risk getting too much and having side effects,” says Zumpano.


When you’re zinc deficient, your body can’t produce healthy, new cells. This leads to symptoms such as:

unexplained weight loss

wounds that won’t heal

lack of alertness

decreased sense of smell and taste


loss of appetite

open sores on the skin

If you’re pregnant and have zinc deficiency, your baby might not have what it needs to develop properly in your womb. And if you and your partner are trying to become pregnant, zinc deficiency could make it difficult. That’s because zinc deficiency may lead to impotence in men.

But if you’re worried about a zinc deficiency due to dietary choices or health conditions, your provider can order a blood test to check your zinc levels.



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