Zinc Supplements —The Benefits and Side Effects

Zinc Supplements —The Benefits and Side Effects
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Benefits of Supplementing

Zinc is an essential mineral needed by the body to produce hundreds of enzymes used in healthy bodily functioning. Taking supplements can help the body sustain these functions by supplying enough of the mineral when adequate supplies are not consumed through food. Excellent food sources of zinc include meat, poultry, oysters, eggs, mushrooms, and whole grains. The body usually absorbs about one third of what is ingested, more readily from animal sources than non-animal sources. Zinc supplements simply enhance the amount of zinc available in the body.

There are many health benefits of this vital mineral. Zinc plays an important role in the growth and well-being of the reproductive organs, and is necessary for prostate gland function. Both impotency and infertility can be attributed to a zinc deficiency. It may help to control oil gland secretion, possibly preventing acne. Zinc is needed for protein synthesis, collagen formation, and bone formation. It supports a strong immune system and is needed for proper wound healing. Zinc also promotes better absorption and use of both vitamin E and A.

When Zinc May Be Necessary

Supplements of zinc may be necessary when there are signs of a deficiency. As many of the best sources of zinc are from animal protein, a deficiency is more likely for vegetarians. If several of these signs are prevalent and this mineral is not a common part of diet, talk to a doctor about taking supplements. Signs of a deficiency:

  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • acne
  • thin, peeling fingernails
  • slow wound healing
  • recurrent colds and other respiratory infections
  • loss of taste and smell

Side Effects

Regardless of the benefits, there are side effects of zinc supplements if taken in high quantities. Too much is essentially toxic to the body. Where supplements result in an increased immune response and are reputed to reduce the severity of a cold, excess zinc actually seems to depress the immune system. Zinc interferes with the absorption of other essential minerals, mainly copper, iron, and magnesium. Too much can lead to a deficiency of these minerals, which will result in a number of side effects, ultimately reversing the benefits of taking supplemental zinc in the first place.

How to Take Properly

Zinc supplements should be taken under the supervision of a health care professional. With a doctor’s approval, when taking extra zinc, be sure to keep the dosage level below one hundred milligrams per day. The FDA recommends forty milligrams for an adult. More than one hundred milligrams can become toxic to the body. If eating plenty of foods with zinc, then supplements are probably unnecessary on a regular basis. They can still be helpful in the form of lozenges; taking zinc lozenges when a cold begins is supposed to strengthen the body’s immune response. Ultimately, supplements have much to offer, but only in small quantities.


Balch, Phyllis A. " Prescription for Nutritional Healing." Fourth Edition (Penguin Books, 2006).

Natural Supplements Health Guide

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