Zinc is an essential mineral that is needed for many important functions in the body. It helps build new tissues, and supports growth and development, immunity, healthy skin, bone strength and reproduction. Zinc is naturally available through the diet from foods such as shellfish, beef, pork, turkey, chicken, beans, chickpeas, yoghurt and cashews,1 as well as zinc supplements.
How much zinc do I need to stay healthy?
Zinc needs vary according to age and gender. See the table below for daily recommendations:
|RDI of Zinc||Age group and gender|
|3mg||Children, 1 – 3 yrs|
|4mg||Children, 4 – 8 yrs.|
|6mg||Children, 9 – 13 yrs|
|7mg||Girls, 14 – 18 yrs|
|8mg||Women, 19 ‐ >70 yrs|
|10mg||Pregnancy, 14 – 18 yrs|
|11mg||Pregnancy, 19 – 50 yrs; Lactation, 14 – 18 yrs|
|12mg||Lactation, 19 – 50 yrs|
|13mg||Boys, 14 ‐ 18 yrs|
|14mg||Men, 19 ‐ >70 yrs|
While uncommon, a mild zinc deficiency may be overlooked as symptoms are not always obvious and may include loss of hair, appetite, weight and the senses of taste and smell.2 A dietary deficiency of zinc may also impair the healthy functioning of the immune system and increase susceptibility to illness.1
Zinc & supplementation – who might benefit from a zinc supplement?
While zinc requirements for most people can be met through a healthy diet, others have greater zinc needs that they may be unable to get through their diet alone. This includes:1
- Pregnant and lactating women, as zinc requirements do increase at this time.
- Older adults.
- Strict vegetarians who tend to consume higher amounts of grains and legumes. These foods contain high levels of phytic acid which may reduce zinc absorption in the body.
A zinc supplement may benefit these groups of people as well as those who wish to support healthy skin or immune function. In men, a zinc supplement may help deliver adequate zinc to the body to support the male reproductive system, healthy prostate function, the maintenance of normal testosterone levels and healthy sperm.