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Zinc: An Essential Mineral
Feb 09, 2022
Zinc is an essential mineral and antioxidant that is involved in many aspects of immune health and cellular metabolism. It is required for the catalytic activity of approximately 100 enzymes1,2 and plays an important role in immune function,3,4 protein synthesis,4 wound healing,5 regulation role in cell signaling, DNA synthesis2,4 and cell division.4 Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence.6-8 It is required for a proper sense of taste and smell.5,9 A daily intake of zinc is required to maintain a steady state because the body has no specialized zinc storage system.10
Dietary Zinc Recommendations
The table below outlines the Recommended Dietary Allowance for zinc:
*Adequate Intake (AI)
Food Sources of Zinc11 Many foods contain zinc. Red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. Phytates, which are present in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other food, bind zinc and can inhibit its absorption. Therefore, the bioavailability of zinc from grains and plant foods is lower than that from animal foods. The table below lists several sources of zinc.
Beef Chuck Roast
Dark Meat Chicken
Does Zinc Supplementation Help Support the Immune System?
The body requires zinc to activate T cells.2 T cells are cells of the immune system that help fight off invaders. People with low zinc levels have shown reduced immune system response. Low zinc status has been associated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections in children in developing countries and the elderly.12-15 Zinc deficiency can lead to an overproduction of pro-inflammatory cytokines, unbalanced T Cell ratios as well as less B Cells and T cell regulators, all which may negatively affect the immune system.16
Do I Need a Zinc Supplement?
In the United States, inadequate intake of zinc is somewhat uncommon. However, 15% of American adults (>19 y) are not meeting their zinc requirements from diet alone.17 There is an increase in concern in older adults as an analysis of NHANES III data found that 35%–45% of adults aged 60 years or older had zinc intakes below the estimated average requirement (EAR) of 6.8 mg/day for elderly females and 9.4 mg/day for elderly males. When the investigators considered intakes from both food and dietary supplements, they found that 20%–25% of older adults still had inadequate zinc intakes.18 If zinc deficiency does occur, it could be due to inadequate zinc intake or absorption, increased losses of zinc from the body or increased zinc requirements.
You may be at particular risk for zinc deficiency if you:
Have recently had gastrointestinal surgery
Have a digestive disorder
Are a vegetarian
Are pregnant or nursing
Are an infant who is exclusively breastfed
Have sickle cell disease
Intake excessive amounts of alcohol
Should I Add a Dietary Supplement to My Daily Routine?
It’s important for patients to communicate with their healthcare professionals about any changes to their daily regimen including dietary supplements. Work together to understand personal nutrition needs as well as current dietary patterns to identify nutrient gaps. For those who are still unable to meet their nutrient needs from diet alone, it’s important to discuss the need to fill any potential nutrient gaps with dietary supplements, as a safe and effective way to ensure adequate intake of all essential nutrients.
About Nature Made®
Over the last 50 years, Nature Made has been a trusted leader in the wellness industry. They have helped pioneer quality standards for vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements, and remain dedicated to formulating products backed by science. Committed to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Nature Made’s quality extends to every aspect of our production, from purchasing high-quality raw materials to routine testing for purity and potency. In fact, they were the first national supplement brand to have a product verified by United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and it is the national supplement brand with the most products carrying the USP Verified Mark, verification that products meet stringent quality criteria for purity and potency. Nature Made is also the #1 Pharmacist Recommended Supplement Brand in 9 Categories**
These materials are intended for educational purposes only. *Find those Nature Made USP verified products on NatureMade.com/USP **Based on U.S. News & World Report – Pharmacy Times Survey, 2021
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Sandstead HH. Understanding zinc: recent observations and interpretations. J Lab Clin Med 1994;124:322-7.
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc external link disclaimer. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2001.
Solomons NW. Mild human zinc deficiency produces an imbalance between cell-mediated and humoral immunity. Nutr Rev 1998;56:27-8.
Prasad AS. Zinc: an overview. Nutrition 1995;11:93-9.
Heyneman CA. Zinc deficiency and taste disorders. Ann Pharmacother 1996;30:186-7.
Simmer K, Thompson RP. Zinc in the fetus and newborn. Acta Paediatr Scand Suppl 1985;319:158-63.
Fabris N, et al. Zinc, human diseases and aging. Aging (Milano) 1995;7:77-93.
Maret W, et al. Zinc requirements and the risks and benefits of zinc supplementation. J Trace Elem Med Biol 2006;20:3-18.
Prasad AS, et al. Zinc deficiency: changes in cytokine production and T-cell subpopulations in patients with head and neck cancer and in noncancer subjects. Proc Assoc Am Physicians. 1997;109:68-77.
Rink L, Gabriel P. Zinc and the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc 2000;59:541-52.
S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019.
Bahl R, Bhandari N, et al. Plasma zinc as a predictor of diarrheal and respiratory morbidity in children in an urban slum setting. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68 (2 Suppl):414S-7S.
Brooks WA, et al. Effect of weekly zinc supplements on incidence of pneumonia and diarrhoea in children younger than 2 years in an urban, low-income population in Bangladesh: randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2005;366:999-1004.
Meydani SN, et al. Serum zinc and pneumonia in nursing home elderly. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1167-73.
Black RE. Zinc deficiency, infectious disease and mortality in the developing world. J Nutr 2003;133:1485S-9S.
Inga Wessels, et al. Zinc as a Gatekeeper of Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Dec; 9(12): 1286.
Reider CA, et al. Inadequacy of Immune Health Nutrients: Intakes in US Adults, the 2005-2016 NHANES. Nutrients. 2020;12(6):1735. Published 2020 Jun 10. doi:10.3390/nu12061735
Ervin RB, et al. Mineral intakes of elderly adult supplement and non-supplement users in the third national health and nutrition examination survey. J Nutr 2002;132:3422-7.
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