Zinc is a chemical element that the human body desperately needs. However, it is only needed in very small quantities, in so-called traces. Zinc is therefore assigned to the group of trace elements. The following text provides comprehensive information about your body’s zinc requirements. He will explain the function of zinc in the human body and the consequences of zinc deficiency.
The function of zinc in the human body
Zinc is considered an indispensable and essential trace element. It is involved in a variety of biological functions in the body and is therefore of crucial importance for human health. Zinc, for example, fulfills important functions in the immune system. It is involved in defensive reactions that the immune system carries out against foreign substances and germs.
In addition, zinc is considered a building block for a variety of enzymes. Enzymes, for example, control digestion. They thus make a significant contribution to the functions of the human biological system.
Who has an increased need for zinc
It must be ensured that everyone consumes sufficient zinc through food or tablets. However, people’s daily requirements can be quite different.
Strains and stress
As in many other cases, people with increased stress and mental strain, for example, need more zinc than others. In order to reduce the stress caused by so-called “free radicals”, this important trace element is also consumed.
In sports and physical activity
Athletes can also have an increased need for zinc. It is well known that they sweat out vitamins, minerals and trace elements during physical activity. These must later be reintroduced as tablets or through food.
Zinc deficiency is also caused by dietary habits. The body can usually absorb zinc from animal sources (meat) well, whereas with a purely vegetarian diet, zinc absorption can be reduced by accompanying substances.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
If a woman is pregnant or breastfeeding, there is a higher zinc requirement, according to the German Nutrition Society (DGE). From the fourth month of pregnancy, it is important to moderately increase the intake of the trace element.
At an advanced age
Increased intake also applies to the elderly. Here, the digestive system no longer works as efficiently as in younger people and therefore does not absorb an adequate amount of zinc.
Weakened immune system
Ultimately, there is also an increased need for chronically ill patients. Since zinc is involved in functions in the immune system, more of it is usually consumed in chronic diseases than in healthy people.
How does zinc deficiency manifest itself?
Since zinc is known as an all-rounder, there are also a variety of symptoms of a deficiency. A zinc deficiency could be considered for the following symptoms:
- dry or flaky skin
- higher susceptibility to infections
- diminished sense of taste
- diminished sense of smell
- depressed mood
Zinc is involved in sebum production. In addition, zinc improves wound healing.
It is believed that the duration of infection can be shortened by zinc.
Of course, the symptoms mentioned can also have other causes or, in addition to a lack of zinc, other causes. In any case, it is necessary to pay close attention to the symptoms of the body.
Foods that contain a lot of zinc
One way to maintain an adequate supply of zinc is to supply the trace element through the daily diet. Oysters or shrimps, for example, are considered to be particularly rich in zinc. In addition to zinc, seafood and fish also contain amino acids that promote zinc absorption. The same goes for raw meat, such as a beef steak.
Cereals, nuts and legumes are also considered good sources of zinc. In contrast to the aforementioned foods, they belong to the plant-based sources of zinc. Finally, eggs and milk can still be identified as good sources of zinc. In addition to zinc, they also provide proteins, which are conducive to zinc absorption.
Interactions and side effects
Some ingredients, such as proteins, promote the absorption of zinc. Other ingredients inhibit the absorption of zinc. It therefore makes sense to avoid certain substances when taking a zinc supplement or to consume them with a delay. Pytic acid, which is contained in whole grain products, could prevent zinc absorption. The same applies to tannins that may be contained in cola, coffee or tea. In addition, antibiotics should be able to interact with zinc preparations. It therefore makes sense not to take both preparations at the same time.
Zinc – a small element with a big effect
Zinc is an all-rounder. Although only trace amounts of it are needed in our bodies, it is central to our well-being, energy and strength. It is involved in essential processes in the body, such as food intake and the defense against pathogens.
However, the effect of zinc only comes into its own if it is present in sufficient quantities. It is therefore sensible and advisable to pay attention to an adequate zinc intake. In contrast to many medications, zinc as a preparation is not particularly expensive. So it’s no wonder that many manufacturers of medicines and dietary supplements add it to their combination preparations and highlight it on the packaging.