Zinc is a mineral that our body cannot produce itself. This is why people can quickly develop a zinc deficiency if the vital trace element is not available in sufficient quantities. We will show you how to recognize a defect and how to prevent it.
Zinc is involved in numerous processes in the body and plays a significant role as a component in enzymes and proteins and their reactions. Zinc is therefore also one of the most important trace elements in humans in terms of quantity. It is involved in cell growth and wound healing in the body, among other things. It is also essential for various metabolic processes, in the immune system and in reproduction.
Zinc contributes to the hormonal balance and, in sufficient quantities, ensures that the immune system can work properly. The human body contains 1.5 to 2.5 g of zinc, it can only store small amounts of the mineral. Mainly it is stored with 70% in bones and in the skin and hair.
The blood, on the other hand, contains hardly any zinc. It is therefore very important to consume zinc through a balanced, healthy diet to prevent a possible deficiency.
Also interesting: Zinc helps with colds – zinc strengthens the immune system, skin and nails
According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), the recommended intake for zinc is the following reference values per day:
Women aged 19 and over:
Men aged 19 and over:
Children and young people from 10 to 18 years:
For women who are breastfeeding, the requirement increases to 11 to 14 mg per day depending on the individual’s phytate intake.
The values depend on the individual daily intake of phytate. The more phytate you ingest from food per day, the higher the zinc intake must be in order for it to be adequately absorbed. Phytate is a form of phytic acid in plants that binds various minerals in them that are necessary for germination. It is mainly found in seed foods such as legumes and whole grains.
Phytate binds the absorbed zinc in the human gastrointestinal tract and thus prevents absorption. You can achieve a low phytate intake and thus a high zinc absorption, for example, through a diet in which you consume fewer whole grain products and legumes. However, the protein sources should primarily be of animal origin, according to the DGE.
Tiredness, concentration problems and listlessness or general exhaustion can be signs of a zinc deficiency. Likewise, dry eyes and blurred vision. Other frequently occurring symptoms can be skin problems and impaired wound healing. If you are prone to acne, scaly, very dry skin or inflammation, you should have this clarified by your family doctor or dermatologist. Brittle hair and nails can also indicate zinc deficiency. Leukonychia sufferers often recognize this by the white spots that form on the nail surface. If you have too little zinc in your body for a long time, you can develop taste and smell disorders, as well as reduced libido or potency and conception.
However, none of these symptoms is specific to a zinc deficiency, it can also be due to other causes that a doctor should determine, for example, with a blood test. But you can also test whether the symptoms decrease after zinc administration. If so, according to the DGE, it would be evidence of a zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency can occur, especially in people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases. The absorption of the important mineral can be disturbed in people with intestinal diseases or intolerances. In addition, vegetarians may be more affected, as these diets often include an intake of higher amounts of phytate. This increases the risk of zinc deficiency. The body’s absorption of zinc is also limited in people who drink heavily. Zinc helps tremendously in breaking down alcohol in the liver. In general, however, competitive athletes also have a higher need for zinc. It breaks down lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles after a lot of exercise.
There is also an inherited zinc deficiency that can be diagnosed by a doctor and should be specifically treated.
Appropriate to the topic: Surprising finding: a vegetarian diet covers the zinc requirements of athletes
A healthy, varied diet is key to preventing zinc deficiency. Lean beef and pork, as well as cheese, milk and eggs are excellent sources of zinc. Fish and seafood, like oysters and tuna, have plenty of it. Vegetables like spinach and peas have zinc. Nuts, such as cashews and pecans, provide zinc intake from plant foods in a similar way to wheat or rye sprouts. Peanuts and sunflower seeds also provide the vital trace element. Anyone who eats a vegetarian or vegan diet can germinate, roast and soak the food. In this way, the phytate content in the plants can be reduced, which then facilitates the zinc supply.
Zinc can also be taken in through dietary supplements. These preparations are often combined with vitamin C. However, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment advises not to exceed the maximum amount of 6.5 mg per day for food supplements. The intake of zinc via food is already taken into account in this figure. Too high a zinc intake in turn impairs the absorption of copper in the human organism. This is important for iron metabolism in the blood.
If you are unsure whether an additional zinc intake via dietary supplements makes sense, talk to your family doctor about it. The consumer advice center is rather critical of dietary supplements containing zinc preparations. There is still insufficient evidence that increased zinc intake improves bodily functions and protects the immune system better against colds.