What Is Zinc & Why Do We Need It?

Published November 22, 2012

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What is Zinc?

Zinc is an important trace element that comes from our diet.

It helps to make thyroid hormones and releases vitamin A from body stores when needed. It speeds up chemical reactions, regulates cell activities, helps your body metabolise proteins, fats and carbohydrates, switches on genes, and stimulates immune responses.

Why your body needs Zinc

Zinc helps to form the structure of hair, skin, nails and the connective tissue in joints. It also helps wounds to heal, and works with vitamin A to maintain healthy skin and mucous membranes.

It’s important for healthy reproduction, as it plays a role in ovulation, fertilisation and a healthy pregnancy in women, and helps maintain healthy sperm, testes and the prostate gland in men.

Zinc also supports the body’s immune defence system, promotes healthy bone growth, helps the body to regulate blood sugar, and plays a role in fighting free radical damage and inflammation.

If you’re low in zinc, you may suffer from fatigue, low mood, night blindness, poor appetite, hair loss, diarrhoea, erection problems, or an increased tendency to get infections.

Adolescent boys and men may have increased need for zinc because it’s vital for puberty and male sexual function. In women, pregnancy increases the need for zinc.

Dietary sources of Zinc

Animal foods provide good sources of zinc that the body can absorb well. These include oysters, mussels, crab, lobster, red meat, liver and eggs. Nuts, wholegrains and legumes also contain zinc, but it’s a form that your body is less able to absorb.

If symptoms persist, seek advice from your healthcare professional.

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