What is zinc?

Zinc is an essential trace element, meaning it is present in the body in small amounts. In an adult, about 2 gm is present in the body. Next to iron, zinc is the most common mineral in the body and found in every cell. It plays an important role in growth, reproduction, blood clotting, vision, thyroid function and in the function of the immune system.

What is the function of zinc?

Zinc is a component involved in the function of hundreds of enzyme complexes, such as  metabolism of proteins ,lipids , carbohydrates and nucleic acids . In addition, it is also necessary for the function of several hormones , including those of the thyroid hormone, insulin hormone, sex hormones and growth hormone. Its presence is important both to stabilize membranes and other cellular components, and provide proper structure and regulation of the organs. Zinc is essential for cell division, as well as growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence. It is also involved in the  DNA synthesis , the expression of genes in the immune response, wound healing and tissue repair. Finally, it is involved in the perception of taste and smell.

Which foods are rich in zinc?

Zinc is found mainly in oysters , yeast , liver , meat , eggs , fish , cereal , milk and its derivatives . However, the body can only absorb a small amount, between 20 and 30% of the entire amount found in food.  Its presence in vegetables is in a form less available and more difficult to absorb.

What is the recommended daily requirement of zinc?

The recommended daily intake of zinc is 15 mg . In women, however, the need increases during lactation, reaching 19 mg daily. In any case, zinc should be taken with water or juice and with meals.

What are the consequences of zinc deficiency?

Zinc deficiency that leads to serious consequences is rarely seen. However, an insufficient intake of this nutrient can cause changes in the skin, loss of hair , diarrhea , recurring infections, and psychological problems . In severe cases, a deficiency can lead to delays in development and sexual maturation, impotence, loss of weight, compromising taste, smell or slower wound healing. In addition, zinc deficiency can increase the risk of vitamin A deficiency.

What are the consequences of excessive zinc intake?

Excessive intake of zinc typically causes vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, drowsiness, anemia and dizziness. An excess of zinc accumulated over time can instead alter the metabolism of copper and iron in the body, interfere with the health of red blood cells , reduce the level of certain white blood cells and impair immune function. Also too much zinc can reduce HDL cholesterol , considered the "good" cholesterol, in turn affecting the function of the heart and some pancreatic enzymes.

Is it true that taking zinc can help prevent colds?

Some studies have shown that in case of malnutrition, taking zinc can help increase T lymphocytes , thus reducing the duration and severity of infections. However, it seems that pads and nasal gels composed of zinc are not effective in the treatment of colds.