Zinc is one of several naturally occurring minerals needed to promote optimum health. Many people, particularly vegetarians, pay particular attention to maintaining their levels of this mineral.
Zinc naturally occurs in some foods, is added to others, and available as a single or combination dietary supplements.
Many foods have zinc that is available for immediate use to satisfy the steady state requirement of the body. (Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, 2001) (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2011). These include:
The body uses zinc in many parts of cellular metabolism, including the following:
People need to take zinc every day, in either food or supplements, to maintain a steady state since the body has no ability to store the mineral. (Rink L, 2000) Zinc is also sold as a help to counteract cold symptoms in some over-the-counter drugs.
Phytates, found in certain whole-grain breads, cereals and other foods, bind with zinc and inhibit its absorption (Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, 2001). This means that the zinc that is available from plants is less usable than that from meats.
The recommended daily intake of zinc has been provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes, which were determined, by the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) is determined to be the average daily level of intake that is enough to meet the requirements of from 97 to 98 percent of healthy persons. The current RDA ranges from 2 mg for infants of less than six months to 12 mg for lactating adult women. (Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, 2001) Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is the maximum daily intake that will probably not have adverse effects. (Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board, 2001)
Zinc supplements are usually taken by populations that are demonstrated to need extra zinc outside their daily diets. Those populations include:
Babies older than 6 months who are exclusively breast-fed. Alcoholics Sickle Cell disease patients Vegetarians Pregnant and lactating women Those wishing to boost their immune system, especially to fight off colds and flu
Even though zinc is not stored in the body, toxicity from long-term use of large zinc supplements can have the following significant effects: (Hooper PL, 1980)
Low copper status Altered iron function Reduced immune function Reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins (Hooper PL, 1980)
Zinc can have powerful interactions with some medications. Persons who take the following pharmaceuticals on a regular basis should consult their physicians about their zinc status:
Certain antibiotics such as quinolone (Cipro®) and tetracycline (Achromycin® and Sumycin®) Absorption of the drug penicillamine, used for rheumatoid arthritis, can be reduced by zinc. Thiazide diuretics have been shown to increase urinary excretion of zinc by as much as 60 percent. (PO, 1980)
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