Zinc is an immunity-boosting powerhouse. Here’s why you need to make sure your levels are topped up.
It’s not just a high-scoring word in Scrabble – zinc is also essential for our health and wellbeing.
We need zinc to help the body create new cells and process food. It also helps us to resist infection. Find out why everybody’s body could benefit from a healthy zinc intake.
What is zinc?
Zinc is the second most common mineral found in our bodies, after iron. It’s in every cell, from our organs to our bones, tissues and fluids.1
Foods high in zinc include:
• legumes including chickpeas
• nuts and seeds
• wholemeal bread
• fortified vegan foods
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Why do we need zinc?
We don’t need a lot of zinc to help our bodies work efficiently – 7mg a day for women, 9.5mg for men2 – but that small amount has a whole host of benefits.
Zinc cuts the length of a cold
A meta-analysis of research published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases in 2017 found that zinc acetate lozenges can speed up recovery from colds. On the fifth day of the cold, 70% of sufferers who took zinc had recovered compared with 27% of those who took a placebo.3
In 2015, an Australian trial also found that high-dose zinc lozenges (80mg a day) cut the duration of nasal discharge by 34%, nasal congestion by 37%, scratchy throat by 33%, and cough by 46%.4
Zinc fights inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response by the body to fighting infection, but when it persists is can lead to chronic conditions such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, depression and Alzheimer’s Disease.5
The good news is zinc has anti-inflammatory activity. A study by Jagiellonian University Medical College in Poland in 2017 discovered that zinc ‘exhibits antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity’ which can potentially deter ill-health.6
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Zinc boosts immunity
A 2017 US study carried out over six weeks found that taking just an 4mg extra of zinc a day made a major difference to the health of cells, which in turn makes your body better able to fight infections and diseases.7
The team concluded that zinc reduces ‘oxidative stress and damage to DNA’ that helps protect against chronic diseases.
Zinc is good for fertility
Zinc has long been associated with a positive impact on male fertility. One study of 200 men published in the journal Fertility and Sterility in 2002 confirmed that normal sperm count increased after taking combined zinc sulfate and folic acid, in both fertile and sub-fertile men.8
How zinc interacts with copper
It’s not just a zinc deficiency that can cause a problem. If you consume too much zinc, this can reduce the amount of copper the body can absorb, so don’t take more than 25mg a day unless advised by your doctor.
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. University of Maryland Medical Center. Zinc. Available from: https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/zinc
2. NHS Choices. Zinc. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/others/#zinc
3. Hemilä H, et al. Zinc Acetate Lozenges May Improve the Recovery Rate of Common Cold Patients: An Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ofid/article/4/2/ofx059/3098578
4. Hemilä H, et al. The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4359576/
5. Harvard Medical School. Foods that fight inflammation. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
6. Jarosz M, et al. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc. Zinc-dependent NF-κB signaling. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5306179/
7. 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. Available from: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/105/2/343/4637488
8. Wong WY, et al. Effects of folic acid and zinc sulfate on male factor subfertility: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11872201