Zinc is an important mineral that our body cannot make itself. This means we have to obtain it from our diet or supplements and the basic and vital function which it performs is helping fight infection and heal wounds.
There are multiple aspects of the immune system and zinc affects all. Zinc is crucial for normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity, neutrophils, and other cells. Zinc deficiency adversely affects the growth and function of lymphocytes- T and B cells which are part of the immune system. The ability of zinc to function as an anti-oxidant and stabilize membranes makes it possible that it has a role in the prevention of free radical-induced injury during inflammatory processes.
Zinc is known to play a central role in the immune system, and zinc-deficient persons are more susceptible to a variety of pathogens. The immunologic mechanisms whereby zinc modulates increased susceptibility to infection have been found. This clears that zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, from the barrier of the skin to gene regulation within lymphocytes. Zinc is important for normal development and function of cells mediating nonspecific immunity such as neutrophils and natural killer cells. Zinc deficiency also causes an effect on the development of acquired immunity by preventing both the outgrowth and certain functions of T lymphocytes.
Zinc has the following vital roles in our body, for example, zinc:
- Plays a role in maintaining the activity of more than 300 different enzymes in our body
- Is vital for our immune system function as it maintains the integrity of our skin and for cells mediating immunity such as neutrophils and killer cells.
- Is required for protein and DNA synthesis
- Is crucial for wound healing
- Promotes normal growth and development during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy
- Ensures the proper functioning of our senses-taste and smell
The safe recommended dose of zinc
- Birth to 6 months: 2mg (maximum 4mg)
- Infants and children (7 month-3 years): 3mg (maximum 5mg to 12 months, 7mg to 3 years)
- Children (4-8 years): 5mg (maximum 12mg)
- Children (9-13 years): 8mg (maximum 23mg)
- Teenagers (14-18 years) (girls): 9mg (maximum 34mg)
- Teenagers (14-18 years) (boys): 11mg (maximum 34mg)
- Adults (men): 11mg (maximum 40mg)
- Breastfeeding women: 12mg (maximum 40mg).
- Adults (women): 8mg (maximum 40mg)
- Pregnant women: 11mg (maximum 40mg)
Natural good food sources of zinc
- Beans and nuts
- Whole grains
- Red meat
- Fortified cereals
Word of Caution:
Health care providers may recommend zinc supplements in a few cases to people who have zinc deficiencies. Strict vegetarians, people consuming heavy alcohol, and people who have a poor diet are at higher risk for zinc deficiency. So are those with certain digestive problems, such as Crohn’s disease.
In case of severe cases, supplements are recommended but should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor. Supplements are NOT recommended for children, due to the risk of zinc deficiency being low and zinc toxicity can easily develop. Zinc supplements should only be given to children after taking medical advice.
For adults, the maximum recommended amounts should not be exceeded long term.
Over to you
Zinc supplements should not be taken at too high a dose or for long periods as they can cause toxicity as well. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in the body in many ways including it keeps the immune system strong; helps heal wounds, and supports normal growth and should be consumed in recommended doses to protect the body.