Do you need Zinc supplements?
Posted: Nov 29, 2021
Zinc is a chemical element with the symbol of Zn. It is also an essential micronutrient for humans where it has important roles in the growth of cells and many other biological processes. It is required for as a component of over 300 enzymes. Getting enough zinc can be important to health for these reasons. Of most importance is the role that it plays in the healthy function of the immune system and in would healing. There is no doubt that zinc is vital for normal function and good health. The major dietary sources of zinc include meat, liver, eggs, oysters, fowl, peanuts, almonds, whole grains and pumpkin seeds.
A deficiency of zinc is rare in developed countries. There are a number of clinical conditions associated with a lack of zinc, and these include chronic fatigue, a growth retardation, hypogonadism, cirrhosis, skin rash, diarrhea, alopecia, eye and skin lesions, impaired immune functions and impotence.
Before spending money on zinc supplements, it would probably be important to determine if there is a deficiency in zinc first. Some alternative health practitioners use the Zinc Taste Test which they claim can be used to test for a zinc deficiency. The scientific evidence on this test is clear and it is not valid and not reliable, so is totally useless to determine if there really is a zinc deficiency. The only way to determine if someone is deficient in zinc is via a blood test.
Should you take zinc supplements? Like any supplement, they are a waste of money if there is no deficiency. The body just excretes the zinc that is taken in that it does not need. There is nothing that surplus zinc can do to improve anything, and it will just be passed in the urine. You can not improve the immune system or any other body function by taking zinc supplements if the zinc levels are normal. This is one of the big myths promoted by the supplement industry for financial gain. Zinc deficiency is very rare in developed countries, so the chances of anyone lacking in zinc is pretty low. Zinc deficiency could affect up to 20% of those in developing countries. If you are concerned about it, then eating more foods such as meat and eggs that are rich in zinc may be all you need to do. There are also dangers in taking too much zinc. As well as the financial cost of paying for supplements that you do not need, too much absorption of zinc suppresses copper and iron absorption and has consequences for the bodily functions that those elements are involved in. Ironically, we need zinc for a health immune response, but excessive zinc can suppress the immune response. Taking extra zinc does not boost the immune system. That is another myth promoted by the supplement industry. Zinc supplements can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and an unpleasant metallic taste in the mouth.
If you are really concerned about your zinc levels, then see your doctor for a proper blood test rather than a pseudoscience peddler of myths.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.