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Why is Zinc Important in Human Health?


Quick Facts

  1. The human body requires zinc for various physiological processes. It plays a crucial role in immune function, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and the sense of taste and smell. 
  1. Good dietary sources of zinc include seafood (such as oysters), red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Zinc deficiency can lead to impaired growth, weakened immune system, and delayed sexual maturation. 
  1. Zinc is an essential nutrient for plant growth. It is a component of many enzymes involved in plant metabolism and is necessary for the production of plant growth hormones. 
  1. Zinc oxide is a common compound derived from zinc. It is widely used in sunscreens, as it provides effective protection against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. 

What is Zinc? 

Zinc is a chemical element with the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is classified as a transition metal and is placed in Group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in numerous physiological processes within the body. From immune function to cell division, zinc contributes to various aspects of human health. Zinc is also a crucial trace element that is essential for the normal functioning of many biological processes in both plants and animals. 

Zinc has a distinct bluish-white color and a lustrous appearance, giving it a shiny surface. It reflects light, contributing to its metallic sheen.  

Overall health benefits of Zinc 

  • Immune function: Zinc plays a vital role in supporting a healthy immune system, helping to regulate immune cell function and the body’s defense against pathogens. 
  • Growth and development: Zinc is crucial for proper growth, development, and cell division, particularly during childhood and adolescence. 
  • Wound healing: Zinc is involved in various stages of wound healing, including inflammation, cell proliferation, collagen synthesis, and tissue repair. 
  • Antioxidant activity: Zinc serves as a cofactor for antioxidant enzymes, helping to protect cells from oxidative stress and damage and maintain overall cellular health. 
  • Skin Health: Zinc contributes to maintaining healthy skin, supporting the production of collagen, and protecting against oxidative damage. 
  • DNA synthesis: Zinc plays a role in DNA and protein synthesis, supporting cellular growth and division. 

Role of Zinc in each system of the human body 

Skeletal System 

Zinc is involved in bone metabolism and mineralization. It contributes to the maintenance of bone structure, bone formation, and the activity of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. It also aids in the synthesis of collagen, which is a major component of bone tissue. 

Muscular System 

Zinc is essential for normal muscle function, including muscle contraction, protein synthesis, and energy metabolism. It is involved in the activity of various enzymes and transcription factors required for muscle development and repair.  

Cardiovascular System 

Zinc contributes to cardiovascular health by participating in antioxidant defense mechanisms, maintaining vascular integrity, and regulating blood clotting. It is involved in the synthesis and metabolism of lipids, proteins, and DNA, which are essential for proper cardiovascular function.  

Nervous System 

Zinc plays a vital role in neurotransmission, neuronal development, and cognition. It is involved in the regulation of synaptic plasticity, the production of neurotransmitters, and the activity of numerous enzymes in the brain.  

Respiratory System 

Zinc is essential for the normal functioning of the respiratory system, particularly in immune defense mechanisms against respiratory infections. It supports the integrity of the respiratory epithelium and aids in the production of immune cells involved in respiratory health.  

Digestive System 

Zinc plays a critical role in the digestive system as it is involved in the synthesis and secretion of digestive enzymes and the maintenance of the intestinal barrier function. It aids in nutrient absorption, particularly for proteins and carbohydrates.  

Endocrine System  

Zinc is essential for the synthesis, storage, and secretion of hormones. It is involved in the functioning of various endocrine glands, including the pituitary, thyroid, and reproductive glands. Zinc also plays a role in insulin production and glucose metabolism.  

Urinary System 

Zinc is involved in maintaining the integrity of the urinary tract epithelium and is required for normal kidney function. It plays a role in the metabolism of vitamins and minerals necessary for proper urinary system health.  

Reproductive System 

Zinc is essential for reproductive health in both males and females. It is involved in sperm production, maturation, and motility in males, as well as hormone regulation and follicular development in females. Zinc deficiency can lead to infertility and reproductive abnormalities.  

Integumentary System 

Zinc is crucial for maintaining the health of the skin, nails, and hair. It aids in wound healing, skin cell production, and the synthesis of structural proteins, such as collagen and keratin.  

Skin Health:  
  • Promote wound healing: Zinc plays a vital role in all phases of wound healing, including inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. It aids in cell migration, collagen synthesis, and epithelialization, leading to faster and more efficient wound healing.  
  • Support acne management: Zinc exhibits anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which may help reduce acne lesions. It also helps regulate sebum production and balances hormone levels associated with acne.  
  • Protect against UV damage: Zinc acts as an antioxidant and protects the skin from the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It helps prevent oxidative stress, DNA damage, and inflammation caused by UV exposure.  
Nail Health:  
  • Promoting nail growth: Adequate zinc levels support the proliferation of cells in the nail matrix, which is responsible for nail growth. Zinc deficiency can lead to brittle, slow-growing nails.  
  • Strengthening nails: Zinc is involved in the synthesis of keratin, a protein that forms the structure of nails. Sufficient zinc levels contribute to stronger and less brittle nails.  
  • Preventing white spots: White spots on the nails are often associated with zinc deficiency. Ensuring adequate zinc intake may help prevent the occurrence of these spots.  
Hair Health:  
  • Hair follicle development: Zinc plays a crucial role in the formation and development of hair follicles. It supports the growth and differentiation of hair follicle cells, which are responsible for producing hair.  
  • Prevention of hair loss: Zinc helps regulate hormone levels and prevents the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which can contribute to hair loss. It also supports the structural integrity of hair strands, reducing breakage.  

The recommended daily intake of zinc varies depending on age, sex, and life stage. The following are the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for zinc: 

  • Infants (0-6 months): 2 mg/day 
  • Infants (7-12 months): 3 mg/day 
  • Children (1-3 years): 3 mg/day 
  • Children (4-8 years): 5 mg/day 
  • Children (9-13 years): 8 mg/day 
  • Adolescents (14-18 years): Boys – 11 mg/day, Girls – 9 mg/day 
  • Adults (19 years and older): Men – 11 mg/day, Women – 8 mg/day 
  • Pregnancy: 11-13 mg/day, depending on trimester 
  • Lactation: 12-14 mg/day, depending on lactation stage  


It’s important to note that excessive zinc intake can have adverse effects. Acute or chronic high-dose zinc supplementation can lead to symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and copper deficiency. Long-term excessive zinc intake may impair immune function and interfere with the absorption of other minerals. Please be mindful of this warning when supplementing. It is important that you do your due diligent to find what’s best for your case. 

Top Natural Sources of Zinc 

Zinc is found in various foods, and incorporating these sources into your diet can help meet your zinc requirements. Some of the top natural sources of zinc include: 

  • Shellfish: Oysters, crab, and shrimp are particularly rich in zinc. 
  • Meat: Beef, lamb, and pork are good sources of zinc. 
  • Poultry: Chicken and turkey provide moderate amounts of zinc. 
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, and beans, especially kidney beans and black beans, are zinc-rich plant sources. 
  • Nuts and Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and cashews contain significant amounts of zinc. 
  • Whole Grains: Wheat germ, quinoa, oats, and brown rice are sources of zinc. 
  • Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, and yogurt can contribute to zinc intake. 

Types of Zinc 

There are various types of zinc compounds used in dietary supplements, each providing elemental zinc, which is the active form responsible for its health benefits. Here are some common types of zinc and their benefits: 

 Zinc Picolinate  Zinc Gluconate Zinc Citrate  Zinc Sulfate  Zinc Orotate  Zinc Oxide  Zinc Methionine  
Bioavailable*  Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes   Yes  
Immune Support  Yes  Yes  Yes  Yes    Yes  
Antioxidant  Yes       Yes  
Antimicrobial       Yes   
Skin Health  Yes  Yes  Yes    Yes   
Wound healing   Yes   Yes     
Growth & Development    Yes  Yes     
Heart Health      Yes    
Cellular Energy      Yes    
DNA Synthesis      Yes    
Types of Zinc Comparison

*Bioavailable – meaning it is easily absorbed by the body.  

Here’s one of my favorite zinc supplements:

Zinc’s Impact on Parkinson’s Disease Patients  

Research on the relationship between zinc and Parkinson’s disease is still evolving. Some studies suggest that alterations in zinc metabolism and accumulation in specific brain regions may be implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease. However, the precise mechanisms and therapeutic implications require further investigation.  

I hope you find this post helpful! May God bless you the wisdom you need in caring for your health and your loved ones. Be brioful!

Read about Magnesium and its role in human health here.


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