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Why do we need Zinc?

Sustainable Health

Zinc is a natural mineral that is naturally present in many foods, added to some food products and can also be consumed in supplement form. Zinc is required in our bodies for:

  • Catalytic activity
  • Immune system functioning
  • Synthesis of proteins
  • Healing of wounds
  • Synthesis of DNA and
  • Cell division

Zinc is required for normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence, in addition to being essential for our senses of taste and smell. A deficiency in Zinc has also been indicated as a possible nutritional cause of hair loss.

Those at risk include vegetarians, pregnant and lactating women and alcoholics among others.

Daily Zinc Requirement

As our bodies do not store Zinc, we need to ensure daily consumption in adequate amounts. Please see the table below to check your Zinc requirement. For example, as per the table below, an adult woman (19+ years), who isn’t pregnant or lactating, needs 8 mg of Zinc per day.

AgeMaleFemalePregnantLactating
0 – 6 months2 mg2 mg
7 – 12 months3 mg3 mg
1 – 3 years3 mg3 mg
4 – 8 years5 mg5 mg
9 – 13 years8 mg8 mg
14 – 18 years11 mg9 mg12 mg13 mg
19+ years11 mg8 mg11 mg12 mg

Sources of Zinc

Zinc can be found in various meats, poultry and seafood, including beef, crab, pork, chicken and lobster. Vegetarian sources include fortified breakfast cereals, baked beans, yogurt, chickpeas, cheese, peas, almonds and kidney beans among others.

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

A deficiency in Zinc presents itself in most cases as:

  • Retardation of growth
  • Appetite loss
  • Impaired immune function

Severe cases of Zinc deficiency present as:

  • Hair loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Delayed sexual maturation
  • Impotence
  • Hypogonadism (males)
  • Lesions – skin and eyes

In addition to:

  • Weight loss
  • Delayed healing of wounds
  • Taste abnormalities and
  • Mental lethargy

Zinc overdoses can happen and the symptoms of excessive Zinc consumption include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and headaches.

References

  1. Zinc – Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
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