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Zinc Health Benefits: Healthy Skin, Immune Support, & More

Written by Dr. Edward Group Founder
 
A bowl of pumpkin seeds, which are high in zinc.

Around 120 B.C., a Roman shipping vessel sank off the coast of Tuscany. Two millennia later, archeologists dug up the shipwreck. The most surprising find? The team uncovered a 2,000-year-old cabinet containing undamaged tablets made of zinc compounds![1] They believed the Romans used zinc to ward off infection and stay healthy at sea.

Today, zinc continues to be an essential mineral used to support healthy eyes, skin, and hair. But that’s not all. Today, we know that zinc strengthens the immune system, promotes hormonal balance, boosts energy levels, and protects cells from damaging free radicals.

The Top 5 Zinc Health Benefits

Every cell in your body uses this crucial micronutrient.[2] Let’s explore some of the health benefits of zinc and how it contributes to your physical and mental well-being.

Boosts Your Immune System

Zinc plays a role in keeping your immune system strong and is essential for your sense of taste and smell. Specifically, zinc promotes the growth of T helper cells (white blood cells) that target unwanted harmful organisms.[4] It also has antioxidant properties that helps your body ward off free radicals.[5]

When you have a runny nose, itchy eyes, and can’t stop sneezing, it just doesn’t feel good. It’s hard to concentrate, you feel sleepy and uncomfortable, and you may even feel cold. During these times, try consuming zinc within the first 24 hours of the onset of these symptoms to reduce their duration and severity.[3]

Promotes Glowing Skin & Healthy Hair

When it comes to healthy, glowing skin, zinc may not be the first thing you consider. While half of your body’s zinc is in your bones, your skin also contains a significant amount.[5] Zinc helps your body produce collagen — a protein responsible for your skin’s support structure. In other words, this trace mineral can keep your skin looking healthy and youthful.[6]

Zinc can support skin health. Many sunscreen formulas and skin creams contain zinc, as it can protect your skin from damage caused by UV light and other irritations.[7, 8] Even when you take zinc capsules orally it can help decrease the redness and swelling caused by acne, improving the appearance of your skin.

Zinc also plays a role in having healthy locks. We know that zinc deficiency is associated with hair loss. While nothing can prevent normal male pattern baldness, you can ensure that you have enough zinc to keep your hair from abnormally thinning.

Zinc health benefits infographic.

Keeps Your Cells Healthy

Zinc is vital for human development and growth from the time you’re a baby until your golden years. This mineral plays a role in growing and dividing cells throughout the body (cell division), as well as DNA synthesis.[9] It also assists in your body’s metabolic processes.

When you get injured, zinc helps your body create healthy new tissue.[8] People use both oral and topical forms of zinc for wounds on the body.

Zinc not only promotes a normal response to inflammation, but it also reduces oxidative stress, which damages DNA. Together, these benefits promote graceful aging.[10]

Supports Sexual Health

At certain times in our lives — particularly during stressful times or significant life changes — sex drive may decrease. Other times, a hormonal imbalance can impact sexual desires. If you find yourself with a lower sex drive than before, try zinc. This mineral promotes normal levels of sex hormones in the body in both men and women, leading to enhanced sexual health.[11]

Your body requires zinc during the production of sperm. Getting adequate amounts supports normal fertility.[12]

Zinc also promotes normal erectile function, especially in individuals experiencing a difficulty or condition that temporarily affects libido and sex drive.[13]

Balances Hormones for Men & Women

Even a small shift in hormone levels can cause big changes within the body. Low zinc levels are one potential factor that can contribute to hormonal imbalances.[12, 13, 14]

Zinc levels are directly associated with several hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, thyroid hormones, and even insulin — the hormone responsible for balancing your blood sugar levels.[14, 15]

Through the process of hormone balancing, zinc improves muscle recovery and strength in conjunction with weight training.

How to Find the Best Sources of Zinc

Getting enough zinc can have a positive impact on your health. If you want to ensure your levels of this essential nutrient are sufficient, consume a healthy diet or take zinc supplements.

Foods

The following foods have the highest bioavailability of zinc per serving:[16]

  • Dark chocolate
  • Nuts: cashews, pine nuts, almonds
  • Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, peas, beans
  • Seeds: pumpkin, sesame, watermelon
  • Garlic
  • Oatmeal

Zinc Supplements

Supplementing with zinc is an excellent idea for anyone who wants an extra immune system boost, healthy skin, or hormone balance.

Groups at risk of zinc deficiency include vegetarians, people with gastrointestinal issues that affect nutrient absorption, and pregnant or lactating women. If you are at risk of zinc deficiency, you may want to increase your zinc intake. A high-quality supplement can help provide the zinc necessary to support your health and well-being.

Before you choose a zinc supplement, there’s one important thing to know. Your body can’t easily absorb zinc when it is alone. Most supplements contain zinc “chelated” or joined to other amino acids or organic substances. The most common forms of zinc include:

Zinc orotate: This is the most bioavailable form of zinc, which means your cells absorb it most effectively. Zinc orotates have antioxidant properties that can help keep you healthy.

Zinc gluconate: This is most commonly found in over-the-counter formulas for cold symptoms, such as nasal sprays and throat lozenges.

Zinc citrate: This water-soluble form is most commonly used in tablets or syrups to prevent zinc deficiency and to prevent dehydration in children with gastrointestinal issues.

Zinc sulfate: You will find in some topical ointments for addressing minor skin conditions such as burns and irritation. It is also a common ingredient in sunscreens — as well as zinc oxide.

If you take high-potency zinc for long periods, it can cause deficiency of another essential mineral — copper. Copper also plays a critical role in your immune system.[17] Taking zinc with copper in a 15:1 ratio will ensure your dietary supplement does not lead to either excessive zinc or depletion of other essential minerals.

Always take zinc as directed in the recommended amounts. If you have any questions, talk to your healthcare professional.

Points to Remember

Zinc is an essential mineral which your body needs to maintain good health. This trace element supports many of the body’s important functions. These include the immune system, healthy hair and skin, hormonal balance, sexual health, and the growth and development of cells.

Zinc is generally safe for adults when used in recommended amounts. Make sure you get enough zinc in your diet every day, whether through a healthy, plant-based diet that includes high-zinc foods or by taking a supplement — preferably one that’s formulated with a 15:1 ratio with copper.

Do you take zinc? What does it do for you? Share your experience in the comments!

References (17)
  1. Giachi G, et al. Ingredients of a 2,000-y-old medicine revealed by chemical, mineralogical, and botanical investigations. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Jan 22;110(4):1193-1196.
  2. Roohani N, et al. Zinc and its importance for human health: An integrative review. J Res Med Sci. 2013 Feb; 18(2):144-157.
  3. Singh M, Das RR. Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Feb 16;(2):CD001364.
  4. Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med. 2008 May-Jun; 14(5-6):353-357.
  5. Sanna A, et al. Zinc status and autoimmunity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrients. 2018 Jan 11;10(1).pii: E68.
  6. Vollmer DL, et al. Enhancing skin health: by oral administration of natural compounds and minerals with implications to the dermal microbiome. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Oct; 19(10):3059.
  7. Park K. Role of micronutrients in skin health and function. Biomol Ther (Seoul). 2015 May; 23(3):207-217.
  8. Gupta M, et al. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2014: 709152.
  9. Macdonald RS, et al. The role of zinc in growth and cell proliferation. J Nutr. 2000 May;130(5S Suppl):1500S-1508S.
  10. Zyba SJ, et al. A moderate increase in dietary zinc reduces DNA strand breaks in leukocytes and alters plasma proteins without changing plasma zinc concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Feb;105(2): 343-351.
  11. Galali GR, et al. Impact of oral zinc therapy on the level of sex hormones in male patients on hemodialysis. Ren Fail. 2010 May;32(4):417-419.
  12. Kerns K, et al. Zinc: a necessary ion for mammalian sperm fertilization competency. Int J Mol Sci. 2018 Dec;19(12):4097.
  13. Vecchio M, et al. Treatment options for sexual dysfunction in patients with chronic kidney disease: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2010 Jun;5(6):985-995.
  14. Baltaci AK, et al. Review: The role of zinc in the endocrine system. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2019 Jan;32(1):231-239.
  15. Chausmer AB. Zinc, insulin and diabetes. J Am Coll Nutr. 1998 Apr;17(2):109-115.
  16. Oregon State University. Zinc. Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center. Updated May 2019. Accessed 02 Aug 2019.
  17. Duncan A, et al. The risk of copper deficiency in patients prescribed zinc supplements. J Clin Pathol.2015 Sep;68(9):723-725.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.


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