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Zinc is a mineral, a nutrient that your body needs to function properly but cannot manufacture on its own. The mineral has a number of functions in the body. It helps the immune system defend the body against bacteria and viruses and is required to manufacture important proteins and DNA. In addition, zinc plays a role in fetal, infant and child development, making it a key nutrient for pregnant women and kids. Your body also needs zinc for skin healing and for your senses of taste and smell to work correctly.
The National Institute of Health considers 40 mg of zinc a day is the higher end of how much adults can consume. For kids, it is recommended that only 4 mg of zinc is taken per day for infants under 6 months.
Some foods that are high in zinc include meat, shellfish, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, dark chocolate, and the list goes on.
Most people get enough zinc from their diet alone. Zinc is found in oysters, red meat, poultry, seafood, whole grains, beans, nuts and dairy products. Some breakfast cereals are also fortified with zinc. Certain individuals are more likely to suffer from low zinc levels, including people who have undergone weight loss surgery or who suffer from digestive disorders. Vegetarians, older infants who are exclusively breastfed, individuals with sickle cell anemia and those who chronically abuse alcohol are at an increased risk for zinc deficiency. Typically, zinc deficiency symptoms can be alleviated by taking a zinc supplement.
Many people use zinc as an alternative intervention for medical conditions. There is some research that suggests a zinc lozenge or syrup may shorten the length of the common cold. In addition, medical providers may recommend zinc for immune system support, easing diarrhea and for addressing an eye disease called age-related macular degeneration. Keep in mind that there is not enough evidence to prove that zinc is beneficial for everyone who uses it as a complementary remedy.
Before taking a zinc supplement, talk to your doctor about your nutritional needs. He or she can help you decide if zinc is right for you and recommend the best dosage level for your needs. The strength of zinc supplements is measured in milligrams (mg), and supplements usually contain up to 100 milligrams of zinc per serving. To get the most out of the supplement that you choose, follow the manufacturer's directions carefully unless otherwise directed by your medical provider.
Some side effects of zinc may include nausea, vomitting, metallic taste, and kidney and stomach damage. Zinc can be safe when used properly. Read the product label or talk to your doctor to make sure you are taking the correct amount.
A major study in 1984 showed that zinc supplements may help some people avoid getting sick, or not become as sick as others during cold and flu season. If you take zinc within the first 24 hours of a sign of a cold, you can possibly reduce the length of the cold by a full day. Colds are caused by a virus that lives in the throat and nasal passages. When you take zinc, it may help to prevent these viruses from multiplying, thus shortening the duration of your cold and the symptoms that come with it. You can take zinc as a pill, spray, or lozenge to help keep your cold symptoms at bay.
Much like many other vitamins and supplements, zinc comes in several different forms. If possible, avoid taking zinc sulfate since this form is the least easily absorbed and may cause stomach upset in some people. If you're looking for zinc that absorbs well in the body, consider zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, or zinc glycerate. If one type causes stomach irritation, you may switch to another form until you find the one that's right for you. You should get approximately 10-15 mg of zinc per day from food. The remainder can be taken via supplement form, which averages between 30 to 50 mg for most brands unless you purchase it in a high-dose format.
Taking zinc provides a range of benefits for men and women, but it has some significant perks for men. One benefit of taking zinc for men is that it may help to regulate testosterone levels in the body. Zinc may also help men reduce the risk of an enlarged prostate and can potentially help those dealing with symptoms like frequent urination. Men may also benefit from taking zinc in other ways, such as promoting healthy, thicker hair and assisting with protein synthesis for strong muscles.
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