Zinc: why and what form?

Our bodies need a whole range of nutrients every day. One of those nutrients is the mineral zinc. Zinc is involved in many functions in your body. Do you make sure that you always have enough zinc in your diet? If not, it may be desirable to supplement zinc with a good dietary supplement. We will tell you what you should pay attention to in this article.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is what we call a trace element. A trace element is a component in the diet that the body needs in relatively small amounts. But for a trace element, zinc is still present in the body in relatively large quantities: on average, the body contains 2-4 grams of zinc. This makes zinc the second most abundant trace element in the body[1]

The body cannot store zinc. Therefore, a diet rich in zinc should be eaten daily. Zinc is mainly found in (organ) meat, nuts, poultry and crustaceans and shellfish. The amount of zinc we eat has decreased significantly since the dawn of agriculture. Because we hunt, fish and collect less, we also consume less zinc [2]. This reduced intake can have health consequences.

 What does zinc do in your body?

Zinc is involved in all kinds of important processes in the body. Zinc has a positive effect on the immune system. Our skin is an important part of our immune system. The skin has a surface of 1.7 m2 and is therefore seen as the largest organ of the body. Zinc helps to keep the skin healthy.

Zinc is also important for maintaining strong bones. Bones give structure and protection to the body. More than 85% of the body’s total zinc is stored in our bones and muscles [3].

What many people don’t know is that zinc also plays an important role in mental exertion and activity. It is good for concentration and memory and for maintaining a clear mind. Zinc contributes to normal intelligence, learning and problem solving.

Zinc is also good for nails and hair.

How do you know if you have a zinc deficiency?

There are several situations in which a zinc deficiency can occur. For example if you do not eat enough zinc. For example, a vegetarian diet mainly consists of food that contains little zinc, while at the same time it is rich in food that can prevent the absorption of zinc, such as grain products.

The existence of zinc deficiencies was first documented in science in 1963. Farmers who mainly ate grains, carrots and vegetables took part in the study and therefore had little zinc in their diets [4,5].

Zinc deficiencies still exist today. This is most common in the areas around the (sub)tropics and has to do with nutritional deficiencies [6]. In other countries it is also seen that the amount of zinc in the population is not optimal. It is good to keep in mind that sweat contains a relatively large amount of zinc. This partly explains why a zinc deficiency is more common in warmer areas. Through perspiration one loses an average of 3-4 mg of zinc per day. This can even increase to 14 mg per day [7]. During intensive sports or going to the sauna, people generally perspire a bit more and therefore lose zinc.

In those situations where a zinc deficiency is present, one should therefore eat extra food that is rich in zinc. In addition, a good zinc supplement can be a nice addition in those cases.

What kind of zinc is best as a supplement?

Sometimes it is therefore desirable to supplement the amount of zinc in the body with a supplement. But zinc comes in many different forms and which one should you choose?

The best form to supplement zinc is zinc methionine. In zinc methionine, zinc is linked to the amino acid methionine. Amino acids are building blocks of proteins and are therefore found in meat, fish, shellfish, poultry and eggs.

Methionine is an amino acid that the body can absorb most easily. If zinc is bound to methionine, it can therefore also be absorbed most easily into the body.

In addition, zinc in the form of zinc methionine does not bind to those parts in the diet that can hinder the absorption of zinc, such as phytate in cereal products or oxalic acid in spinach.

Quality of Zinc Supplements

The quality of zinc supplements is unfortunately very different. There are many reasons why. Important aspects that determine the quality of a zinc supplement are the bioavailability and cadmium concentrations.

Bioavailability means whether the body can also properly absorb and use the substance, i.e. whether the substance also gets to where it is needed. The bioavailability of zinc methionine is high, because it does not bind to other nutrients and because the gut can also absorb it directly.

Cadmium is a substance that is very difficult to remove from zinc. Lower quality zinc supplements may contain higher amounts of cadmium. That makes them less suitable to ingest. Cadmium can cause damage in the body and the body does not need cadmium to function properly [8].

Knowledge in practice

A zinc deficiency can occur, for example, if there is a higher need of the body, for example when sweating a lot. Or because the diet does not contain enough zinc, which is the case with a vegetarian diet. In those cases, it is good to take a good quality zinc supplement. Then zinc methionine is by far the best choice.

The dosage of zinc is individual and can vary from 1 to 3 capsules containing 15 mg of elemental zinc per capsule. If there is an increased need for zinc or if there is a diet that contains insufficient zinc, zinc methionine can certainly offer a solution. Higher doses may be prescribed in therapeutic treatment courses.

Sources:

  1. Rink L. Zinc and the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc. 2000 Nov;59(4):541–52.
  2. Solomons NW. Dietary Sources of Zinc and Factors Affecting its Bioavailability. Food Nutr Bull. 2001 Jan;22(2):138–54.
  3. Institute of Medicine (U. S.). Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington (DC): The National Academies Press; 2001. 800 p.
  4. Prasad AS, Miale A, Farid Z, Sandstead HH, Schulert AR, Darby WJ. Biochemical studies on dwarfism, hypogonadism, and anemia. Arch Intern Med. 1963 Apr;111:407–28.
  5. Sandstead HH. Human Zinc Deficiency: Discovery to Initial Translation123. Adv Nutr. 2013 Jan 4;4(1):76–81.
  6. Wessells KR, Brown KH. Estimating the global prevalence of zinc deficiency: results based on zinc availability in national food supplies and the prevalence of stunting. PloS One. 2012;7(11):e50568.
  7. Driskell JA. Nutrition and Exercise Concerns of Middle Age. CRC Press; 2009. 518 p.
  8. Krone CA, Wyse EJ, Ely JT. Cadmium in zinc-containing mineral supplements. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2001 Jul;52(4):379–82.

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