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Zinc is an essential nutrient that our bodies need for everything from DNA and protein production to healthy immune function, wound healing, growth and more than 300 enzyme reactions. Here, we explore what zinc is, the benefits of zinc, and the positive effects of zinc supplementation. Read on to find out more about this remarkable nutrient and then head to our store and browse all the most popular zinc supplements at Oceans Alive.
Zinc is what is known as an “essential nutrient”. As such, the body cannot produce and store zinc but requires a regular supply of it from food sources for various bodily processes to function correctly. Thankfully, zinc is also a trace mineral, meaning only a small amount is needed to be effective. Zinc is required to build DNA and proteins, support a healthy immune system, heal wounds, and for more than 300 enzymatic reactions.
Zinc also helps cells to grow and multiply. Perhaps unsurprisingly, zinc benefits periods of rapid growth, such as in childhood, pregnancy and adolescence. Zinc is also an antioxidant and is closely associated with taste and smell. The most abundant natural sources of zinc are meat, poultry and seafood. However, it is also found in many plant foods, notably nuts and legumes, though their associated phytate content can inhibit absorption rates.
Strict vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk of zinc deficiency, as are children, pregnant women and those over 65 (this is because zinc absorption is lower in the elderly). Zinc deficiency symptoms may include hair loss, irritability, appetite or weight loss, infections, slow healing wounds, and a lack of taste and smell.
Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce oxidative stress. It does so, thanks to zinc’s antioxidant properties, which help to neutralise free radicals. Left to their own devices, these unstable cells can lead to serious chronic conditions, such as heart disease and cancer. Zinc also has the potential to improve mental health (when combined with over pharmaceuticals), combat acne, and strengthen hair by boosting keratin production.
Zinc supplements have also been linked with promoting an enhanced immune response. For instance, one meta-analysis of seven clinical trials discovered that participants who were administered 80-92 mg of zinc daily experienced naturally acquired common colds that lasted 33% shorter than colds experienced by placebo groups.
Zinc supplements have also been shown to improve wound healing due to the promotion of collagen synthesis. In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 60 patients aged 40-85 with diabetic foot ulcers were given 220 mg of zinc sulphate supplements daily for 12 weeks. At the end of the trial, the zinc-supplemented group of patients experienced a significant reduction in the size of their ulcers.
The current recommended zinc intake for adults in the UK is 7 mg for women and 9.5 mg for men aged 19-64. The NHS recommends taking no more than 25 mg of supplements a day unless advised by a doctor.
Men require slightly higher levels of zinc in their diets due to its vital role in various aspects of men’s health. For example, zinc deficiency has been linked with lower levels of testosterone.
Although testosterone naturally diminishes by around one percent every year from age 30 onwards, lower than average testosterone levels have been linked with fatigue, decreased muscle mass, reduced bone mass and fatigue.
Studies of supplements containing zinc and folate, marketed as male infertility treatments, have mostly proven inconclusive. However, one randomised, placebo-controlled study by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in 2020 concluded that zinc and folate supplementation had “little to no effect on fertility” on trial subjects enrolled from 2,370 participating couples.
However, zinc supplementation has been shown to improve libido. Lab-based studies also found that zinc improved sexual competency in rat subjects, although further testing is needed to establish a link in humans.
Most people can take zinc supplements without any adverse effects. However, higher doses have been linked with nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach ache. Zinc supplements can also hinder the body’s ability to absorb some antibiotics, which means they may be unsuitable if you have been prescribed antibiotics by your GP.
There are conflicting reports online about whether you can safely take zinc and vitamin C supplements together. However, the consensus is that zinc and vitamin C do not interact, suggesting there is no reason to avoid taking them simultaneously. In fact, one study demonstrated that a combination dose of zinc and vitamin C was quicker and more efficient at relieving a runny nose than a placebo over five days of treatment.
Zinc plays an important role in many bodily functions and is crucial for growth and testosterone production. Most people can acquire all the zinc they need from their diet. However, an estimated two billion people worldwide are thought to be zinc deficient. Among the most at-risk are vegetarians and vegans, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people with gastrointestinal diseases, sickle cell anaemia or chronic kidney disease.
If you are not currently getting enough zinc in your diet, zinc supplementation can help you to obtain the daily required amount. We have a range of zinc vitamins available, which means you are certain to find the best zinc supplements for your needs and lifestyle. Remember that it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Therefore, always stick to the recommended dosage and speak to your GP if you have any doubts or concerns.