Did you know that every human has metal in their bodies? It may come as a surprise, but it seems that the human body leaves no stone unturned when pulling resources from nature for survival.

What Is It?

Zinc is an element; more specifically, a type of metal. Zinc is considered a trace mineral in our bodies. Trace mineral are those that the body requires for function, but in very small amounts.

What Is Its Biological Role?

In the body, zinc acts as an antioxidant.[1] Antioxidants are compounds that work to fight damage to our cells caused by harmful compounds referred to as free radicals. Fighting this cell damage helps to slow the effects of aging, and assists in healthy cell division.

Zinc in particular is also known to deter to spread of cancer cells, only helping healthy cells divide.[2] As such it is sometimes used as a holistic cancer treatment. Zinc is also a cofactor for many biochemical reactions within the body that affect hormone production. Even a slight drop in your body’s levels of zinc can cause hormonal imbalance that lead to problems like infertility or impotence in addition to changes in mood that may be unpleasant.

Zinc fortifies your immune system and can even help the duration of time for which we experience cold symptoms. Another popular holistic use for zinc is to fight diabetes. Diabetes causes problems controlling sugar levels because insulin becomes unable to do the job effectively.

Zinc binds to excess glucose, ensuring that it is properly store in the body rather than creating a spike in blood glucose levels. In addition to all of these benefits, it can even help to treat diarrhea and high blood pressure.

How Does It Help Bodybuilders and People Who Work Out?

Zinc is necessary for the optimal health of everyone, and no special benefit is known for fitness enthusiasts. There is a theory that zinc supplementation can help build muscle; however, it has been proven that this only holds true if the individual taking the supplements has a preexisting zinc deficiency.

What Foods Contain It?

The best dietary sources of zinc are generally foods high in protein. This is true of both meat and vegetable sources, but the body will generally absorb zinc better from meat than vegetables. This is because many nutrients work as anti-nutrients towards zinc.

This means that they prevent zinc from being absorbed into the body. Some zinc-rich foods are: lamb, beef, chickpeas, cashew, pumpkin seeds, and yogurt. For individuals following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it may be necessary to consume p to 50% more than the recommended daily allowance of zinc, due to the body’s difficulty absorbing it when it it coupled with certain nutrients found in vegetables.

How Much Of It Do You Need?

At birth, daily recommended doses of zinc [3] start at 2mg per day. The amount increases as you age, normalizing once you pass puberty. In adults aged 19 years and over, the daily recommended allowance of zinc is 11mg per day for males and 8mg per day for females.

There are various forms of zinc available commercially as supplements. Research shows that if you supplement zinc to reach optimal consumption, it does not matter which form of zinc you choose to supplement with.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Much Of It?

Consuming large amounts of zinc all at one time can have negative digestive effects. Depending on the size of the dose, this can range from digestive discomfort to vomiting. High levels of zinc in the body can prevent it from absorbing certain types of medications, such as antibiotics. It can also prevent your body from absorbing copper, creating a copper deficiency in addition to the zinc toxicity.

Unfortunately the vicious cycle continues; copper helps the body absorb iron, so copper deficiency leads to iron deficient anemia. Consuming too much zinc means your body misses out on a whole lot of other things it needs to function properly, and can be quite a downhill slide.

Are There Risks Associated With Consuming Too Little Of It?

Zinc deficiency can result in skin and eye sores, hair loss, diarrhea, slower wound healing and lower levels of alertness. It can also cause slow growth in infants and children,delay sexual maturity in teens, and cause impotence in adult men. Luckily, zinc deficiency is uncommon for most Americans because of how plentiful it is in most protein sources.

Populations who may be at higher risk for zinc deficiencies are vegetarians, vegans, anyone who has had weight loss surgery, alcoholics, people with sickle cell anemia, and anyone with digestive disease such as Crohn’s that prevent proper absorption of certain foods and nutrients.

Final Take

It’s important to remember that every substance your body uses is thee for a reason. Even if it occurs in barely noticeable trace amounts like with zinc, it is still an important part of your body’s delicate machinery, without which you cannot feel like your best self.


[1] WebMD. Antioxidants-Topic Overview. Webmd.com, 2017.

[2] Medline Plus. Zinc in Diet. Medlineplus.gov, 2015.

[3] Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institute of Health. Zinc-Consumer Fact Sheet. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2016.