Zinc is a mineral your cells need to fight off bacteria and viruses and make the genetic material, called DNA, that tells your body how to work the way it should. It helps heal wounds, aids your senses of smell and taste, and is important for infants and children as they grow.
An adult man needs 11 milligrams a day, and an adult woman, 8 milligrams. Children need 2 to 11 milligrams depending on their age and gender.
Most Americans get enough zinc. But some things can make it hard for your body to use it, including surgery on your stomach or intestines, alcohol abuse, and digestive diseases like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. And people who don’t eat meat or animal products can have a harder time getting enough zinc from food.
Zinc: Consequences of Deficiency
It can make children grow more slowly and delay puberty in teens. Adults who are low on zinc can have hair loss, diarrhea, sores on their eyes and skin, and loss of appetite. Talk to your doctor before taking a supplement, though. These issues can also be caused by something other than a lack of zinc.
Zinc: Healthy Skin
Zinc helps your skin do what it’s supposed to: protect you from heat and cold, bacteria, and viruses. Your doctor might prescribe a zinc supplement or ointment to treat certain skin problems, like acne.
Zinc: Helps Fight AMD
This is an eye disease that causes vision loss over time. A large study of people at higher risk of getting AMD showed that taking a daily multivitamin with zinc, along with vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, and copper, may help avoid it.
Zinc: Too Much Can Be Bad for You
It can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, headache, and nausea. And if you take too much for too long, you may have lower levels of copper (another essential nutrient), a weaker immune system, and less HDL, or “good” cholesterol. You shouldn’t get more than 40 milligrams a day unless your doctor has told you otherwise. Talk to your pediatrician before giving a supplement to your child.
Zinc: Interactions With Other Medication
Supplements can weaken the effects of antibiotics, and antibiotics can make it harder for your body to use zinc. The supplements also can make it harder for your body to absorb some drugs, like the arthritis drug penicillamine. Talk to your doctor before taking a supplement.