15 Incredible Benefits of Zinc

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Zemira Barnes (MS)

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The health benefits of zinc include proper functioning of the immune and digestive systems, reduction in stress levels, improved metabolism, and an increased rate of healing for acne and wounds. Also, it is helpful in terms of pregnancy, hair care, eczema, weight loss, night blindness, cold, eye care, appetite loss, and many other conditions.

What is the Importance of Zinc?

Zinc, being an important mineral, plays a vital role in protein synthesis, cell signaling/neurotransmission, vision, and helps regulate cell production in the immune system of the human body. It is mostly found in the strongest muscles of the body and is found in especially high concentrations in the white and red blood cells, retina, skin, liver, kidneys, bones, and pancreas. The semen and the prostate gland in men also contain significant amounts of zinc.

In the human body, there are more than 300 different enzymes that require zinc to function normally. Researchers believe that 3,000 proteins (out of approximately 100,000) have this vital mineral.

A normal person has two to three grams of zinc at any given time. The recommended dietary allowance for zinc is 11 mg/day for men and 8 mg.day for women. There are organs in the human body that secrete it, such as the salivary gland, the prostate gland, and the pancreas. Even cells involved in the activity of the immune system secrete zinc. It is used up in various metabolic processes and eliminated through normal excretory and urinary channels, so it needs to be replenished often. If it isn’t, you will begin to suffer from deficiency symptoms, a list of which can be found below.

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms

  • Growth retardation
  • Low blood pressure
  • Retarded bone growth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of smell and taste senses
  • Depression
  • Rough skin/Pale Skin
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • White spots under fingernails
  • Delayed
  • Erectile dysfunction

Important Sources of Zinc

The most important food source of zinc is meat. Other foods like oysters, turnips, peas, oats, peanuts, almonds, whole wheat grain, pumpkin seeds, ginger root, and pecan nuts have smaller, but still worthwhile amounts of this beneficial mineral.

Health Benefits of Zinc

The most important health benefits of this important mineral are listed below.

Skin Care

Zinc has been credited with stabilizing the cell membrane. Studies have shown zinc to be an effective home remedy for treating pimples. This mineral is also important for eliminating acne from the skin, according to JAMA Dermatology. It regulates and controls the amount of testosterone in the body, which plays a dominant role in causing acne.

In addition to that, zinc is also involved in collagen synthesis. This further aids in normalizing the presence of oil under the skin and improves the maintenance of healthy skin. The open sores that come with acne are practically magnets for bacterial and viral infections and this mineral can stimulate the white blood cell count and reduce the chances of any type of infection.

White blood cells are integral to the healing process and can defend the body against a number of infections, including those that commonly attack canker sores, ulcers, burns, surgical incisions, and other wounds. Zinc is also required for the production of collagen, a connective tissue that is required for skin repair and regrowth. Acne can leave permanent scars on the skin and zinc can help reduce the evidence of those scars.

Foods rich in zinc (sliced salmon, meat, prawns, garlic, mushrooms, almonds, cashews, spinach, & legumes) on a wooden table

Zinc helps build your immune system. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Relieves Eczema

Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is an inflammatory and chronic disorder of the skin and is mainly caused by a deficiency of zinc in the body. It plays an important role in healing chronic infections and assists the body in restoring its ability to heal properly and completely. This irritation may be treated by re-balancing the zinc content in your blood, say researchers from Ain Shams University.

Protects Prostate Health

According to the International Journal of Cancer, this mineral is very important in dealing with prostate disorders and is associated with prostate health. Its deficiency can cause enlargement of the prostate gland and makes it vulnerable to cancer. It is advisable to take 15mg of zinc every day, under close medical observation, when suffering from a prostate disorder. Studies have shown a reduction in tumor growth in the prostate when normal levels of this mineral are present in the system.

Improves Cognition

Zinc has a strong impact on mental function because it can pair up with vitamin B6 to ensure the proper function of neurotransmitters that communicate within the body. This has been highlighted in a study published in the journal Progress in Brain Research by researcher Christopher Frederickson, et al., the University of Texas at Dallas. It is also found in high concentrations in the hippocampus, which controls thought and memory. For those who have suffered an injury, zinc keeps brain function strong, as it is naturally diverted to the other parts of the body for healing purposes.

Improves Senses of Taste & Smell

Zinc has unique benefits, which include the improvement of the senses of taste and smell. Taste buds and olfactory cells are zinc-reliant, and it is necessary for the proper development and growth of those specific cells. Studies have shown that raising zinc levels can improve these two senses and help them function at optimal levels.

Helps Treat Cold

Researchers from Michigan State University have shown a link between the integrity of the immune system and zinc levels in the body. Zinc supplements (specifically in the form of lozenges or syrup) help in decreasing the severity and duration of cold and other mild illnesses. This mineral reduces the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which aggravate the body during cold or other infections. Also, its ability to stimulate white blood cell activity makes it ideal for reducing colds and infections.

Dr. Lili He of the University of Missouri, in a study published in Microbiological Research, says that it helps in protecting against infectious disorders and fungal infections, which include pneumonia and conjunctivitis.

Weight loss

Zinc plays a leading role in weight loss for obese individuals. A number of studies have connected it with a decrease in appetite, which prevents overeating. This is related to zinc’s manipulation of the ghrelin hormone, which tells the body when it wants to eat.

Boosts Reproductive Health

Zinc is essential for the repair and functioning of DNA. It is essential for the rapid growth of cells and for the building of major constituents of the cell over the course of a pregnancy. The enormous development and enzymatic activity that takes place during pregnancy make it one of the most important nutrients for infants and mothers.

In females, zinc is vital in embryogenesis and development. In males, zinc assists in spermatogenesis and the development of the sex organs, while in females, it aids in all the reproductive phases, including the parturition and lactation stages. When it comes to sperm, this mineral plays a major role in a number of ways. First of all, it acts as a sort of sedative for the sperm so that they don’t expend unnecessary energy. It also protects the reproductive DNA inside the sperm from breaking down, so a correct transfer of information is guaranteed. Once the sperm enters the female reproductive tract, it quickly dissipates and has a sudden burst of energy, which propels it up in the tube. Finally, it is an essential part of the enzymes that allow sperm to penetrate into the egg.

Stimulates Protein Synthesis

Zinc acts as an antioxidant and is involved in some of the biochemically decisive reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, enzymatic function, and carbohydrate metabolism. Since this mineral is involved in so many integral systems and functions of the body, this cannot be stressed enough – You must include it in your diet!

Regulates Cell Growth

Zinc is an essential component in a number of enzymes that help in regulating cell growth, protein synthesis, hormonal levels, DNA, gene transcription, energy metabolism, and other related functions.

Anticancer Potential

According to a research report “Zinc in Cancer Prevention” by Ananda S Prasad et al., adding zinc as a supplement to your daily diet is positively linked to decreased oxidative stress and improved immunity levels. This, according to the report, is one of the possible reasons why this mineral can help prevent cancer (Cancer and Metastasis Reviews, December 2002).

Relieves Chronic Fatigue

Studies have shown the role of zinc in fatigue mechanisms. In patients with colorectal cancer on chemotherapy, zinc supplementation proved to be beneficial in preventing fatigue can also consume fish oil supplements that contain zinc to treat extreme exhaustion. Zinc must be doing something right! It is integral for normal muscle function, and researchers believe that muscle fatigue is one of the major causes of chronic fatigue. Therefore, zinc is the ideal supplement to boost your energy levels.

Gives Relief from Alopecia

Alopecia causes loss of hair in both children and adults. Zinc has been studied to treat alopecia accelerating hair follicle recovery. You can access zinc supplements and capsules in almost all health food stores and groceries. Studies suggest that it is more effective against alopecia in children than that of adults.

Controls Bone Loss

With age, our bones become weak and fragile. This mineral is a component of hydroxyapatite, which is a salt that makes the bone matrix strong and hard. Zinc plays a role in bone metabolism. Zinc should be added to your dietary plan to avoid bone loss, particularly as you get older or if you show any signs of premature aging and osteoporosis.

Helps Reduce Night Blindness

High concentrations of zinc are found in the retina. Zinc is credited with helping bring Vitamin A from the liver to the retina to produce protective pigments in the eye. Older adults who experience age-related macular degeneration may benefit from zinc supplementation. Consuming about 150-450 mg zinc will help to improve your vision. Therefore, it is always recommended to consume food like beef, lamb, oysters, buckwheat, and crabs, as they are hoarded with this mineral and will improve your ability to see. It is particularly helpful for those suffering from night blindness.

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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