What Role Does Zinc Play In The Body? Explained

Published on January 3rd, 2023

Last updated on March 7th, 2023

liquid oil drop

It is now trendy to blame poor health on a polluted environment, a heavy workload, and a lack of time. But one micronutrient deficiency can cause health problems. Zinc is not the most talked about micronutrient. It is rarely mentioned. Although its deficiency can have a complex effect on metabolism. According to studies, more than 2 billion people suffer from chronic zinc deficiency. The functions of zinc in the human body are extremely important. It can cause irreversible health effects. Zinc deficiency can lead to:

  • malabsorption syndrome;
  • sickle cell anemia;
  • chronic liver and kidney damage, and others.

Zinc is not produced in the human body. But the functions of zinc play an important role. It is necessary for:

  • stable functioning of all organ systems;
  • a strong immune system;
  • secretion of hormones.

Thus, you should systematically consume food or supplements containing zinc. It is necessary to maintain its required level.

This article will discuss the role of zinc and other essential features in the human body.

What Is Zinc?

zinc formula

Zinc is the most important trace element in the human body and is necessary for adults and children. Its highest concentration is in muscles (60%) and bones (30%). Children and adults need the important functions of zinc for normal development and the formation of internal organs. Deficiency of this element at an early age can trigger pathological processes. Also, it may lead to severe malformations.

Zinc is the most abundant metal in the human body after iron. The adult body typically contains approximately 2 to 3 grams of this substance. This trace element activates more than 200 enzymes. The body uses them for digestion and proper assimilation of food. We cannot overestimate the role of zinc. The advantages of taking zinc are:

  • helps for better metabolism;
  • boosts immune strength;
  • has strong antioxidant properties.

Without getting enough zinc, the body signals the following problems:

  • deterioration of night vision, constant eye fatigue;
  • very slow healing of wounds;
  • hair loss;
  • graying of the skin;
  • digestive disorders;
  • impaired sense of taste and smell;
  • a loss of concentration;
  • dystrophy;
  • nervous system disorders (irritability, high nervous excitability);
  • rapid fatigue;
  • skin disorders (including acne, scaly rashes, eczema, and frequent inflammation);
  • decreased collagen synthesis.

Many activities deplete zinc reserves:

  • Abuse of coffee and alcohol;
  • Prolonged taking hormones;
  • Recovery period after surgery, and serious injuries.

Vegetarians and pregnant women are at risk of developing a deficiency.

What Are The Functions Of Zinc In The Human Body?

taking liquid zinc supplement

Zinc is essential for men. The male body uses it for the normal functioning of the genitals and sperm production. After forty, men should be conscientious of monitoring zinc levels. As functions of zinc are significant. Otherwise, a deficiency of the mineral will decrease testosterone levels, which will cause erectile dysfunction. Sufficient zinc content also prevents adenoma of the prostate gland.

In women, zinc deficiency often leads to delayed puberty. In adulthood, the mineral is essential for maintaining:

  • personal health;
  • hormonal health;
  • stable menstrual cycle.

Zinc is actively involved in the production of the female sex hormone estrogen. Zinc deficiency during pregnancy can lead to complications. It can also cause fetal abnormalities and premature birth. You can see the other benefits of zinc for the skin and body below.

1. Immunity Increase

Zinc significantly reduces the risk of developing inflammatory processes. Its antioxidant properties prevent developing chronic diseases (including diabetes, cancer, and heart defects). A study showed the effectiveness of zinc supplements during colds. Their use reduced the duration and severity of symptoms of acute respiratory infections. And systematic use of zinc as a prophylactic helped prevent infectious diseases. The trace element minimizes cortisol levels. This stress hormone “kills” the immune system and destroys muscle fibers.

2. Cardiovascular System Activity Improvement

Regular intake of zinc helps:

  • clear cholesterol and triglycerides from blood vessels;
  • stabilize systolic blood pressure.

Zinc supplements stimulate brain activity and improve memory, mental abilities, and general well-being. So you can see many beneficial functions of zinc.

3. Fights Dermatological Diseases

Zinc supplements clear the skin even with severe acne and cystic acne. Doctors recommend increasing zinc in the diet if you are prone to dermatoses. By stimulating collagen production, zinc smoothes out early wrinkles and improves skin elasticity.

4. Maintains Visual Acuity

Zinc can stop the development of one of the most dangerous eye pathologies. We call it yellow spot degeneration. It can lead to complete loss of vision. It also accelerates the absorption of vitamin A. So, it prevents eye diseases.

5. Normalizes Blood Sugar

This trace element regulates sugar levels. It also participates in the secretion of the hormone insulin, making it effective in controlling sugar levels in diabetic patients. It is one of the most important roles of zinc in the human body for diabetic people.

6. Makes Hair And Nails Healthy

Hair and nails consist of protein, in the synthesis of which zinc is actively involved. It is one of the main functions of zinc. Its deficiency leads to the fact that curls begin to separate, lose strength, and shine. And the fingernails:

  • grow badly;
  • flaky;
  • and whitish patches.

Zinc for hair and nails is a natural cure-all. It can revive lifeless strands and crumbling nails.

Are Zinc Supplements Harm The Body?

Zinc supplements are incredibly beneficial if taken according to the rules. You have read about many advantages of taking zinc. But, violation of the recommendations and abuse (more than 40 mg per day) can cause side effects.

Possible side effects of taking:

  • nausea;
  • diarrhea;
  • vomiting;
  • acute abdominal pain;
  • flu or flu-like symptoms (fever, headaches, cough, loss of strength).

In such cases, it is necessary to seek qualified medical help.

Note that long-term and uncontrolled use of zinc supplements may impair copper assimilation. It provokes a deficiency of the substance in the blood. Which can have unpleasant consequences for the body. Also, taking zinc supplements may affect the absorption of antibiotics, reducing their activity.

What Foods Contain Zinc?

A large number of well-known products are rich in zinc. Nutritionists recommend including them in your daily diet to improve your well-being. We know one more function of zinc. Take it to support your body during intense physical activity and stress. Below you can see a comparison of different products and their zinc content.

Name of productZinc content mg/100 g
Oysters. But the situation with them is ambiguous. Sometimes it is difficult to find them fresh, and they are not cheap. Also, as a rule, no one limits himself to one oyster, and it is relatively easy to get an overabundance of zinc. It is terrible because absorbing other important micronutrients and vitamin C becomes difficult.60
Veal liver. The liver is the body’s main organ involved in zinc metabolism. It contains the most zinc. The quality is also high. So you can improve your health. It is undoubtedly the advantage of taking zinc. Thus, zinc from the liver is the easiest to absorb.15
Red meat (beef, lamb). Meat eaters are glad that one serving of freshly cooked red meat contains a daily dose of zinc. It is best grilled or braised with the least amount of oil.9
Pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and sesame seeds. You must eat them raw to get the most out of the sources. Add them to salads and porridge, smoothies, and yogurts. You can use the oil as a dressing for ready meals. But you should refrain from frying it to preserve its valuable properties.7.6
Wheat bran. We recommend buying bran bread instead of white bread rolls and cakes. Besides large amounts of zinc, bran contains amino acids, B vitamins, and dietary fiber. They help the digestive tract. Good carbs are the benefits of zinc for the skin.7
AlmondOne serving of nuts contains 3.5 g of fiber, 6 g of protein, and 14 g of fat. That’s about 23 nuts per serving. This amount also contains 1 mg of zinc.4.6
Black chocolate. The main thing is that the content of cocoa products should be at least 75%, then such a dessert will be a real benefit. Besides zinc, chocolate contains magnesium and iron.3
Oat groats. It is not for nothing that nutritionists around the world recommend eating porridge. It is good as breakfast for children and adults.2.6
Buckwheat groats. A serving of cereal provides up to half the daily dose of zinc. Whole grains also contain other vitamins and minerals, and it has few calories. We think it is also an important function of zinc.2.5

But, eating these foods does not guarantee to absorb this valuable trace element. Organisms absorb zinc in food by 20-40%. Thus, dietary supplements are the best way to avoid deficiency. Synthetic micronutrient is vital for all people on the planet. Supplements in liquid form work best. Because of their rapid penetration into the body. They are incredibly fast-acting and bring the greatest benefit.

How To Make Use Of Zinc Functions On The Human Body

The amount of the mineral taken depends on the organism’s characteristics and needs. But the dose may often increase during serious illness, high loads, and recovery.

Professional athletes, during intensive training, may take up to 30 mg of the substance daily. A characteristic function of zinc is that it is metabolized better during increased physical and mental exertion.

The exact daily dose depends on the type of supplement since each contains its amount of elemental metal. Pharmaceutical companies produce zinc in various forms. The most popular of which are:

  • picolinate;
  • gluconate;
  • citrate;
  • zinc acetate.

The average digestibility of the various forms of supplements is:

  • Zinc oxide and sulfate (up to 48%);
  • Zinc glycerate and acetate (up to 60.9%);
  • Zinc citrate and picolinate (up to 61 percent).

You should remember that the assimilability of the element also depends on the degree of its deficiency, the state of the gastrointestinal tract and health in general. Combining zinc supplements with tea and coffee is not advisable because tannin and caffeine impede absorption. Vitamins A and E can help with zinc absorption.

Bottom Line

Zinc is an essential element for human health. As you can see, there are many advantages of taking zinc. Although zinc is present in many foods, its bioavailability is limited. To meet the body’s need for a daily dose of the trace element, it is necessary to take a special vitamin complex, observe the dosage, and adhere to the recommendations for intake.


How much zinc does the human body need?

The daily requirement for zinc is 15 mg for men and 12 mg for women. However, current research suggests that these standards may need to be revised upward by a factor of two or three.

Do athletes need zinc?

Yes. Athletes often experience zinc deficiency after competition or intense training.  Intense physical activity rapidly removes zinc from the body through urine and sweat. In addition, one cannot build muscle mass without zinc because it plays an essential role in protein synthesis.

What foods will make up for zinc deficiency for vegetarians?

Sunflower seeds, pumpkins, pine nuts, sesame seeds, lentils, and soybeans – the zinc content of these foods is 3.8 to 5.5 mg per 100 g. You can use zinc supplements if you have an intolerance to these foods.

What is the danger of zinc overdose?

In acute overdose, vomiting begins if more than 200 g of zinc is taken at once. In chronic overdose, i.e., prolonged use of more than 150 mg per day. You may observe dermatitis and allergic reactions. Ulcerative changes in the gastrointestinal tract may also appear. Often patients report pain in the lumbar spine.

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