Zinc in diet
Zinc is an important trace mineral. This element is second only to iron in its concentration in the body.
Zinc is needed for the body's defensive (immune) system to properly work. It plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the break down of carbohydrates . Zinc is also needed for the senses of smell and taste.
High-protein foods contain high amounts of zinc. Beef, pork, and lamb contain more zinc than fish. The dark meat of a chicken has more zinc than the light meat.
Other good sources of zinc are peanuts, peanut butter, and legumes.
Fruits and vegetables are not good sources, because zinc in plant proteins is not as available for use by the body as the zinc from animal proteins. Therefore, low-protein diets and vegetarian diets tend to be low in zinc.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include:
- Slow growth
- Poor appetite
- Wounds that take a long time to heal
- Loss of hair
- Problems with the sense of taste
- Problems with the sense of smell
- Hypogonadism in males
- Frequent infections
- Trouble seeing in the dark
- Various skin lesions
Zinc supplements in large amounts may cause diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and vomiting, usually within 3 - 10 hours of swallowing the supplements. The symptoms go away within a short period of time after the stopping the supplements.
Specific recommendations for each vitamin or mineral depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine report the following dietary reference intakes (DRIs) for zinc:
- 0-6 months: 2 mcg*/day
- 7-12 months: 3 mcg/day
Children and Adolescents
- 1-3 years: 3 mcg/day
- 4-8 years: 5 mcg/day
- 9-13 years: 8 mcg/day
- 14 and older: 11 mcg/day
- 14-18 years: 9 mcg/day
- 19 and older: 8 mcg/day
*mcg is micrograms
Women who are pregnant or producing milk (lactating) need slighly higher levels of zinc. Ask your health care provider how much is best for you.
Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2000.
Reviewed By: William McGee, M.D., M.H.A., Assistant Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, and Chairman, Nutrition Committee, Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.