Until 2020, when COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, not many people knew anything about how important is to health. Each time the name ‘zinc’ came up in casual conversation it was always in connection with the use of zinc metal as roofing material, which comes in shiny sheets.
But all that changed with the coming of COVID-19, and dreadful fear it brought with it. As people scrambled to learn about what they could do to boost their immunity, word began to circulate that zinc supplement could offer some help in sustaining the body’s immunity.
What is zinc, you may ask? Well, zinc is a mineral which the cells of the body need to fight off bacteria and viruses. More importantly, zinc is involved in the production of DNA, the genetic material which tells the body how to work the way it should. It helps the body to heal wounds, aids the senses of smell and taste, and is important for infants and children as they grow.
How much do you need?
An adult man needs 11 milligrams a day, and an adult woman, 8 milligrams. However, a pregnant woman or one that is breastfeeding would need more – around 12 milligrams. Children need 2 to 11 milligrams depending on their age and gender. It is necessary for the parents to talk to a paediatrician about how much is right for your child.
Notwithstanding the importance of zinc, some things can make it hard for your body to use it, including surgery on your stomach or intestines, alcohol abuse, and digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Again, who don’t eat meat or animal products can have a harder time getting enough zinc from food.
Danger of not getting enough
Not getting enough zinc can make children grow more slowly and delay puberty in teens. Adults who are low on zinc can have hair loss, diarrhea, sores on their eyes and skin, and loss of appetite. It also can affect a man’s sexual desire. If a person is experiencing any of these problems, it is advised that you should first of all have a discussion with your doctor, who would determine whether you really need to take zinc supplement. The reason is that some other things can cause the problems other than a lack of zinc.
Zinc helps your skin do what it’s supposed to: protect you from heat and cold, bacteria, and viruses. Your doctor might prescribe a zinc supplement or ointment to treat certain skin problems, like acne.
Zinc and common cold
Some studies suggest that if you take zinc lozenges or syrup, but not pill supplements, within 24 hours of beginning to experience the symptoms of cold, the symptoms won’t be bad or last as long. Nasal sprays and gels that have it are linked to the loss of sense of smell. However, research is needed to understand whether this really works and how a person needs to take it.
May help prevent AMD
Age-related macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes vision loss over time. A large study of people at higher risk of getting AMD showed that taking a daily multivitamin with zinc, along with vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and copper, may help avoid it. But other studies haven’t had the same results. If you’re at higher risk, talk to your doctor to see if a vitamin would be a good idea for you.
Natural sources of zinc
Among natural sources of zinc, oysters are acclaimed to be best. In terms of weight, a 3-ounce serving has 74 milligrams. That’s five times more than you need per day. Eat them raw with a lemon or bake them Rockefeller-style with spinach, onions, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese.
Too much red meat, especially fatty meat, has been linked to health problems, but it can deliver some essential nutrients, including zinc. Just keep your portions small and eat plenty of green vegetables on the side.
Dark meat chicken has about 2.4 milligrams of zinc per 3-ounce serving, compared with less than 1 milligram in a skinless chicken breast. Try some pan-roasted chicken thighs with sautéed kale for a healthy, tasty meal.
Cashew nut is another good source of zinc. It gives up to 1.6 milligrams of zinc per 1-ounce serving. Keep them at your desk for a healthy treat instead of candy or chips. Just watch your portions. While they’re healthy, cashews are also full of calories and fat.
Even though most people get enough zinc from their meat-rich diet, some people take more as a supplement by itself or as part of a multivitamin. This can be helpful if you don’t get enough in your diet or you have certain medical conditions, but it’s not always safe. Please seek guidance from your doctor. .
Downside of zinc
Despite the benefits of zinc, it can be a problem when taken beyond certain limit. It can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, and nausea. And if you take too much for too long, you may have lower levels of copper (another essential nutrient), a weaker immune system, and less HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol. You shouldn’t get more than 40 milligrams a day unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Talk to your paediatrician before giving a zinc supplement to your child.
Zinc supplements are known to interaction with other medications. Zinc supplements can weaken the effects of antibiotics, and antibiotics can make it harder for your body to use zinc. The supplements also can make it harder for the body to absorb some drugs, like the arthritis drug penicillamine. Talk to your doctor before taking a zinc supplement.