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Zinc Basics

Zinc is a natural constituent of soil and is second only to iron as a metal naturally present in the human body. The National Research Council has established a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 30 mg of zinc for human consumption. Colloidal zinc can be made by anyone using our domestic, commercial or indanoparticles in 24 hours.
Zinc is antimicrobial and inhibits the proliferation of many viruses, moss, fungus, algae and mildew.  The body contains 2 to 3 g of zinc (Zn), found mainly in bones, teeth, hair, skin, liver, muscle, leukocytes, and testes. One third of the 100 µg/dL (15.3 µmol/L) of zinc found in plasma is attached loosely to albumin, and about 2/3 is firmly bound to globulins. There are > 100 zinc metalloenzymes, including a large number of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) dehydrogenases, RNA and DNA polymerases, and DNA transcription factors as well as alkaline phosphatase, superoxide dismutase, and carbonic anhydrase.

Dietary intake of zinc by healthy adults varies from 6 to 15 mg/day, and absorption is about 20%.   Good sources of zinc include oysters, meat, eggs, seafood, black-eyed peas, tofu, and wheat germ. The RDA is 0.2 mg/kg/day for adults.

Uses for zinc:

  • Donates free electrons due to its antioxidant function
  • Promotes healthy skin
  • Supports healthy cartilage regeneration
  • Promotes cellular metabolism and anti-aging benefits
  • Supports hormonal balance
  • Essential for a healthy immune system

What Does Zinc Do?
Zinc is a component of more than 300 enzymes needed to repair wounds, maintain fertility in adults and growth in children, synthesize protein, help cells reproduce, preserve vision, boost immunity, and protect against free radicals, among other functions.
Zinc reduces the body's ability to utilize the essential mineral copper. (For healthy people, this interference is circumvented by supplementing with copper, along with zinc.) The ability to interfere with copper makes zinc an important therapeutic tool for people with Wilson's disease, a genetic condition that causes copper overload.
Zinc supplementation in children in developing countries is associated with improvements in stunted growth, increased weight gain in underweight children, and substantial reductions in the rates of diarrhea and pneumonia, the two leading causes of death in these settings.8 910

A small, preliminary trial has found zinc sulfate to be effective for contact dermatitis (a skin rash caused by contact with an allergen or irritant).11 Participants with active skin rashes took approximately 23 mg of zinc (in the form of zinc sulfate) three times daily, for one month. 73% of those taking the zinc sulfate had complete resolution of their skin rashes, while the remaining participants had a 50-75% improvement.

Zinc Benefits:
Zinc may be of benefit in the care and treatment of the following conditions:
Acrodermatitis enteropathica
Childhood intelligence (for deficiency)
Common cold/sore throat (as lozenges)
Down's syndrome
Down's syndrome
Infertility (male) (for deficiency)
Night blindness (for deficiency)
Wilson's disease
Wound healing (oral and topical)
Anemia (for thalassemia if deficient)
Anorexia nervosa
Birth defects prevention
Canker sores (for deficiency only)
Celiac disease (for deficiency)
Cold sores (topical)
Common cold (as nasal spray)
Crohn's disease
Diabetes (preferably for those with a documented deficiency)
Genital herpes
Gingivitis (zinc plus bloodroot toothpaste)
Halitosis (zinc chloride rinse or toothpaste)
Hepatitis C (zinc-L-carnosine)
HIV support
Immune function (for elderly people)
Liver cirrhosis (for deficiency)
Macular degeneration
Peptic ulcer
Pregnancy support
Rheumatoid arthritis
Sickle cell anemia
Skin ulcers (oral and topical zinc)
Sprains and strains (if deficient)
Tinnitus (for deficiency only)
Athletic performance
Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
Contact dermatitis
Cystic fibrosis
Dermatitis herpetiformis (for deficiency)
Ear infections (recurrent)
Gestational hypertension

Zinc Deficiency:
Zinc deficiencies are quite common in people living in poor countries. Phytate, a substance found in unleavened bread (pita, matzos, and some crackers) significantly reduces absorption of zinc, increasing the chance of zinc deficiency. However, phytate-induced deficiency of zinc appears to be a significant problem only for people already consuming marginally low amounts of zinc.
Even in developed countries, low-income pregnant women and pregnant teenagers are at risk for marginal zinc deficiencies. Supplementing with 25-30 mg per day improves pregnancy outcome in these groups.12 13  People with liver cirrhosis appear to be commonly deficient in zinc.14 This deficiency may be due to cirrhosis-related zinc malabsorption.15People with Down's syndrome are also commonly deficient in zinc.16 Giving zinc supplements to children with Down's syndrome has been reported to improve impaired immunity17 and thyroid function,18 though optimal intake of zinc for people with Down's syndrome remains unclear.  Children with alopecia areata (patchy areas of hair loss) have been reported to be deficient in zinc.19 20
The average diet frequently provides less than the Recommended Dietary Allowance for zinc, particularly in vegetarians. To what extent (if any) these small deficits in zinc intake create clinical problems remains unclear. Nonetheless, a low-potency supplement (15 mg per day) can fill in dietary gaps. Zinc deficiencies are more common in alcoholics and people with sickle cell anemia, mal-absorption problems, and chronic kidney disease.21
The signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency include anorexia, growth retardation, delayed sexual maturation, hypogonadism and hypospermia, alopecia, immune disorders, dermatitis, night blindness, impaired taste (hypogeusia), and impaired wound healing. The first signs of zinc deficiency in marginally nourished children are suboptimal growth, anorexia, and impaired taste.  Biochemical signs associated with zinc deficiency include decreased levels of plasma zinc (< 70 µg/dL [< 10.7 µmol/L]), alkaline phosphatase, alcohol dehydrogenase in the retina (which accounts for night blindness), and plasma testosterone as well as impaired T-lymphocyte function, decreased collagen synthesis (resulting in poor wound healing), and decreased RNA polymerase activity in several tissues.
Clinical assessment of mild zinc deficiency is difficult because many of the signs and symptoms are nonspecific. Nonetheless, if a malnourished person has a borderline-low plasma zinc level, is subsisting on a high fiber and phytate diet containing whole-grain bread (which reduces zinc absorption), and has reduced taste sensitivity, an impaired lymphocyte response to mitogens, and reduced gonadal hormone function, then zinc deficiency should be suspected, and treatment with zinc supplements (15 to 25 mg/day) should be tried.
Maternal zinc deficiency may cause anencephaly in the fetus. Secondary deficiency occurs in liver disease, in malabsorption states, and during prolonged parenteral nutrition. Night blindness and mental lethargy may be features.

Exercising Caution with Zinc consumption:
Zinc intake in excess of 300 mg per day has been reported to impair immune function.22 In topical form, zinc has no known side effects when used as recommended.
Preliminary research had suggested that people with Alzheimer's disease should avoid zinc supplements.24 More recently, preliminary evidence in four patients actually showed improved mental function with zinc supplementation.25 In a convincing review of zinc/Alzheimer's disease research, perhaps the most respected zinc researcher in the world concluded that zinc does not cause or exacerbate Alzheimer's disease symptoms.26
Is Zinc Toxic?
Zinc is only toxic to fungus type organisms (fungus, moss, algae and mildew). Zinc is not toxic to anything else - humans, animals, plants and fish are not affected in any way. Ingesting zinc in large amounts (200 to 800 mg/day), usually by consuming acidic food or drink from a galvanized container, can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Doses of zinc ranging from 100 to 150 mg/day interfere with copper metabolism and cause hypocupremia, RBC microcytosis, and neutropenia. Metal fume fever, also called brass-founders' ague or zinc shakes, is an industrial hazard caused by inhaling zinc oxide fumes; it results in neurologic damage.

Zinc Fights Off Pneumonia:
Pneumonia is a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in children less than five years old. Zinc is reported to prevent pneumonia, and to prevent and treat diarrhoea, and it may boost the body's immune response to infection.

W Abdullah Brooks and colleagues from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, investigated whether zinc would help children between 2 and 23 months old with severe pneumonia. 270 children were randomly assigned to receive 20 mg zinc per day, or a placebo, in addition to standard hospital antibiotics.

Children given zinc recovered from severe pneumonia an average of one day earlier than did those given placebo, and their average stay in hospital was one day shorter. The zinc supplement was safe and well tolerated. Since a course of zinc treatment costs only US$0·15, and one day in the study hospital costs US$25, the potential cost savings are substantial.

Dr Brooks comments: "The effects on treatment failure are striking, have significant implications for reduction of antimicrobial resistance by decreasing multiple antibiotic exposures, and could help reduce complications and death in situations where second line drugs are not available."

Zinc Ions Protect Against SARS:
Dr George Rowland, a British immunologist and biochemist based in South Africa and an authority on zinc ion technologies, believes that zinc ions may prove of benefit in the SARS crisis.
Dr Rowland believes that the fact that SARS is caused by a coronavirus, related to a group of viruses causing the common cold, may be of considerable significance because there is evidence that zinc ions provide a natural protective mechanism against viruses, especially those causing respiratory tract infections. Over the past 30 years, researchers have demonstrated the critical role of zinc in diverse physiological processes, such as growth and development, maintenance and priming of the immune system, and tissue repair.
Dr Rowland writes: “Direct antiviral effects of zinc ions have been demonstrated against rhinoviruses responsible for the common cold and the role of zinc in the respiratory epithelium has recently come under scrutiny. Zinc has also been shown to directly decrease the incidence of respiratory infections in young children in developing countries, probably by mechanisms that involve restoration of T-cell immunity lost as a result of deficiency of this mineral.
Dr Rowland says: “When released in the vicinity of the oral mucous membranes, zinc ions can protect cells from attack by viruses such as rhinoviruses. It is believed that zinc ions attach to cell surface receptors thereby blocking viral attachment and uncoating. Whilst there is no evidence that attachment of the coronavirus causing SARS can be blocked by zinc ions, they are thought to help repair microscopic holes punched in cell membranes by viruses.


International Zinc Association

Articles, Scientific Papers, Press Releases and more on Zinc

Zinc Helps Fight Infection and Inflammation Boosting the Body’s Immune Response

Zinc Can Combat Childhood Killers

Zinc Found Critical Within The Brain to Improve Memory and Cognition

Galvanizers Join Global Zinc Effort for Kids

Unchecked Inflammatory Response Quelled By Zinc

Shedding Light On How Zinc – Essential To The Growth of All Living Organisms – Enters Cells

Zinc Deficiency is a Global Concern

Zinc Deficiency in Children with Dyslexia: Concentrations of Zinc and other Minerals in Sweat and Hair


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