What is Zinc?
Zinc is a trace element which means that we need it in small quantities for numerous bodily functions, growth and maintenance. It plays a role in a variety of biochemical processes like cell production as well as helping to maintain hormone levels.
Zinc also helps us to absorb essential nutrients and plays a vital role in the protein synthesis necessary for cell growth and repair. We know for sure that without zinc, many of our essential bodily functions would go awry.
The WHO has stated that over 30% of the world’s population are deficient in zinc. There are a number of symptoms of zinc deficiency such as muscle waste, hair loss and poor immunity. For a detailed look at these symptoms and the risk factors, you can click this link.
It is always best to get your zinc from dietary sources where possible but for people who are deficient it may be necessary to supplement instead.
There are several different forms of zinc supplements that you can take including zinc orotate, zinc gluconate, zinc oxide and zinc acetate.
Zinc orotate may not be the best known zinc supplement but many experts regard it as the very best form of zinc that you can take.
Zinc Orotate Supplements
Zinc orotate was discovered by a German doctor called Hans Nieper and is actually a mineral salt present in trace amounts in the body. It is composed of a zinc atom with 2 orotic acid molecules. Dr. Nieper noted that zinc orotate was absorbed more readily by the body than other forms of zinc which gave it more potential to treat and prevent disease.
When compared to zinc chloride, zinc sulfate and zinc carbonate he demonstrated that zinc orotate was more bioavailable. Many types of zinc supplement are not readily absorbed into the cell membrane however research indicates that zinc orotate is different.
Research done by Dr. Nieper himself demonstrated that zinc orotate molecules had a greater neutral charge than other types of zinc which allowed them to pas far more easily into the cellular membrane which effectively allows our bodies to receive the highest serving of the supplement possible.
Benefits of Zinc Supplements
So you are thinking of supplementing with zinc but how much do you know about the health benefits that you are going to gain? Let’s take a look at some of the most important…
For the Skin and Acne
Zinc may not be a magic cure for acne but there is plenty of evidence that it is necessary if you want to maintain a clear and healthy complexion. Many acne sufferers are also zinc deficient and many have noticed their acne improving after they start taking supplements.
Indeed, skin complaints and a sallow looking complexion are some of the telltale signs of a zinc deficiency.
As we have already mentioned, zinc plays an all important role in cell growth, replication and repair and this applies to the skin as much as any other part of the body.
Zinc helps to modulate testosterone levels and therefore plays a vital role in male fertility.
Zinc deficiency in men is linked to significantly reduced testosterone levels which can have a very damaging effect on both fertility and sex drive.
One study demonstrated that after restricting the zinc intake of the participants for 5 months, supplementing with zinc had a significant impact on testosterone levels in the majority of participants. (1)
For Hair Loss
Your hair is mainly comprised of 2 proteins called keratin and collagen. A deficiency in zinc has a negative impact on these proteins which can lead to your hair becoming weak and eventually thinning or balding.
A zinc deficiency also leads to a reduction in sebum production which means the follicles lose their strength.
Some of the symptoms of a zinc deficiency are chronic digestive conditions and diarrhea. There is evidence that supplementing with zinc can help cure diarrhea as well as preventing chronic diseases of the intestines.
Colds and Immunity
When you mention zinc, many people will think about its ability to fight colds and there is good reason for this. Taking zinc supplements over a period of several months can actually reduce your chances of developing illnesses like the cold or flu.
There is also evidence that if you start supplementing after becoming sick that zinc can help speed up your recovery.
Research published in 2013 by Indian researchers revealed that if you start taking zinc supplements within the first 24 hours of the onset of your cold, symptoms disappeared significantly faster. (2)
Antioxidants and Potential Cancer Protection
Largely due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, zinc reduces the risk of developing serious illnesses including cancer. Its role in supporting the healthy division of cells helps prevent cancerous cells developing and inhibits the growth of tumors.
Researchers in Michigan found that when zinc supplements were given to 50 elderly patients, oxidative stress was significantly reduced compared to those given a placebo. Those in the placebo group had raised inflammatory cytokine levels and other markers putting them at more risk of illness. (3)
Zinc is necessary to balance many of the body’s hormones including the insulin responsible for regulating blood sugar. Zinc can benefit the level of blood sugar by binding to insulin allowing for it to be stored by the pancreas and released effectively. However, diabetics should proceed with caution as large doses can actually reduce blood sugar levels.
Zinc can benefit the health of your heart in numerous ways. It reduces oxidative stress and inflammation and supports good circulation. It is also viewed as an effective treatment for high cholesterol, blood pressure and clogged arteries.
Zinc is also necessary to ensure that carbs are broken down and used properly by the body as energy.one of the telltale signs of a zinc deficiency is low levels of energy and chronic fatigue. Making sure that you have enough zinc in your system can ensure more energy and an improved metabolism.
Supplementing your regular diet with zinc can also help reduce the risk of liver infection and liver damage. Its antioxidant properties help cleanse the liver and reduce inflammation in the organ. It also helps combat the damage done by free radicals and improves nutrient absorption which allows ,more efficient elimination of waste from the body.
Muscular Growth and Repair
zinc also plays a very important role in cell growth and division meaning it helps boost both muscle growth and repair following injury. It also helps the body maintain muscular and skeletal strength meaning you will feel fitter and stronger physically. Muscle mass is also boosted by the fact that zinc helps to stimulate the release of the hormone-testosterone.
Zinc can help boost muscle mass and strength because it increases the production of testosterone in the body following exercise. It is especially useful after weight training or high intensity interval training workouts or HIIT. This is because zinc enhances the rate at which antrostenedione is converted to testosterone.
Causes and Symptoms of a Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency is actually very common in every part of the world including wealthier nations like the US. It usually occurs when people’s diets do not contain sufficient zinc or if a person has problems absorbing the zinc from their food. This can happen with certain digestive conditions like leaky gut syndrome.
Are you getting enough zinc?
If you want to ensure that you are getting plenty of zinc into your system, the mineral is mostly found in high-protein foods including meat, seafood and dairy products. Zinc can also be found in high levels in various legumes and grains and it is often added to packaged products like cereals to fortify the food.
Unfortunately, the type of zinc added to cereal is not well absorbed by the body and may actually prevent zinc from being absorbed properly. The zinc in legumes and grains is also not as good for you as the zinc found in animal proteins because of the presence of antinutrients which can hinder zinc absorption.
Research even suggests that a high intake of carbohydrates in the diet may be a contributing factor to rising zinc deficiency in the west. According to research, zinc deficiency may be caused not only by carbohydrates replacing proteins in the diet but also because they cause digestive health to suffer meaning absorption of zinc is not as effective. (5)
So are you at risk of a zinc deficiency?
Vegetarians and vegans are at a greater risk than people who eat meat simply because their diets tend not to contain sufficient high quality zinc. Other people at risk are those with poor digestive health such as leaky gut and those with sever acid problems. Alcoholics are also at a much greater risk of zinc deficiency because their diets tend to be much less nutritious.
Women who are taking the contraceptive pill and those undergoing hormone replacement therapy are also believed to be more prone to a zinc deficiency. This is because the medications used for hormone replacement and birth control may interfere with the role of zinc in the body.
Symptoms of a zinc deficiency
There are a number of symptoms and signs that you have a zinc deficiency. The following signs are the most common:
- Weight loss or weight gain.
- Changes in a person;s appetite which can include cravings for sweet or salty foods.
- Problems with smell and taste.
- Hair loss
- Various digestive issues including stomach upset, cramps and diarrhea
- Chronic fatigue
- Poor immunity
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Hormonal issues such as worsening menopause symptoms and PMS.
- Inability of wounds to heal effectively
- Nerve dysfunction
Zinc Supplement Dosage
The following dosage guide refers to elemental zinc but be aware that the amount of elemental zinc varies from supplement to supplement and you should read the facts on the packaging.
- Adult males – 15 mg a day
- Adult females – 12 mg a day
- Pregnant women 15 mg a day
- Breast feeding women -16-19 mg a day
Recommended daily allowance for children
- Birth to 3 years old – 5-10 mg a day
- 4 to 10 years of age – 10 mg a day
Dietary sources of Zinc
If possible, try to get your zinc quota from your diet. Food that is especially rich in zinc includes:
- Beef and lamb
- Wheat germ
- Pumpkin seeds
- Cashew nuts
- Pork and chicken
- Chocolate and cocoa powder
Side effects of Zinc Supplements
- Zinc supplements are considered generally safe when taken orally in doses up to 40 mg a day however you should consult your doctor before going ahead with supplementation.
- Potential side effects include vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, stomach and kidney problems.
- In doses over 40 mg a day, supplements may affect copper absorption which can result in anemia.
- Very high doses of zinc can result in numerous side effects including fever, coughing, fatigue and stomach pain. There is even concern that at doses of over 100 mg a day, zinc supplements can increase the risk of prostate cancer.