Zinc is the second-most-abundant trace mineral in your body (right behind iron), and it is present in every single cell in your system.
In this article, we’ll talk about the function of zinc in your body, the health benefits of taking a zinc supplement, potential side effects to watch out for, and the relationship between zinc and magnesium supplementation.
What is Zinc & Why Do We Need It?
Zinc is an essential nutrient, which means your body can’t produce or store it. You must get a consistent supply of this nutrient through diet or supplementation.
Your body only needs a small amount of zinc to function properly – but this mineral is necessary for the creation and maintenance of over 300 enzymes that carry out vital chemical reactions.
Zinc is required for a number of processes in your system, including:
- Wound healing
- Cell growth
- Skin health
- Protein synthesis
- DNA synthesis
- Immune system function
- Gene expression
- Metabolic function
- Body growth and development
- Your senses of smell and taste
Since zinc is naturally found in a wide variety of plant and animal food sources, you will likely get enough of this mineral if you eat a varied diet that includes plenty of red meat, poultry, and fish.
However, if you feel you’re not getting enough zinc or you’re showing signs of a deficiency, your doctor may recommend supplementing your zinc levels.
The Health Benefits of Zinc
Zinc Boosts Your Immune System
Zinc is critical for immune cell function, and a zinc deficiency can lead to a weakened immune response. This can leave you vulnerable to colds, viruses, or other ailments.
A scientific review study demonstrated that consuming 80 to 92 milligrams of zinc per day may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33% if you take it at the onset of symptoms. Zinc supplements also reduce the risk of infections in older adults.
Avoid intranasal zinc, however – in some people, it has been linked with a short-term or permanent loss of the sense of smell.
ZInc Accelerates Healing
Your skin holds a relatively high percentage of the body’s zinc content (approximately 5%) and zinc plays a critical role in collagen synthesis and inflammatory response, which are important for healing.
Hospitals frequently use zinc oxide creams, ointments, and paste to treat burns, diabetic ulcers, and skin injuries. Zinc deficiencies have been shown to slow down healing, but supplementing with zinc can speed wound recovery.
At home, we can use zinc oxide to treat sunburn or diaper rash.
Zinc May Reduce the Rise of Age-Related Diseases
Older adults who supplement with zinc can reduce their risk of age-related diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and pneumonia. Zinc’s protective effects also shield older bodies from infection, improve vaccination response, and boost mental performance.
One study reported that zinc supplementation could decrease the incidence of infection in older adults by over 60%.
Zinc Can Be Used to Treat Acne
Acne – a common skin disease that affects nearly 10% of the worldwide population – is caused by the obstruction of oil-producing glands in the skin.
Studies have shown that topical and oral zinc can be effective treatments for acne, because they help reduce inflammation and suppress oily gland activity.
Food Sources of Zinc
Natural high-zinc foods include:
- Meat: Pork, beef, bison, and lamb
- Poultry: Chicken and turkey
- Fish: Sardines, salmon, sole, and flounder
- Shellfish: Crab, oysters, mussels, clams, and lobster
- Dairy products: Milk, cream, cheese, and yogurt
- Seeds and nuts: Cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and hemp seeds
- Whole grains: Brown rice, quinoa, and oats
- Some vegetables: Kale, mushrooms, peas, beet greens, and asparagus
- Legumes: Beans, chickpeas, and lentils
Some highly processed foods that don’t naturally contain zinc – like snack bars, breakfast cereals, and baking flour – are fortified with synthetic forms of zinc, but it is better to meet your RDA of this essential nutrient through natural sources if possible.
RDA for Magnesium & Zinc
|Age Group/Gender||Zinc (mg/day)||Magnesium (mg/day)|
|Birth to 6 months||2||30|
|Infants 7-12 months||3||75|
|Children 1-3 years||3||80|
|Children 4-8 years||5||130|
|Children 9-13 years||8||240|
|Teenage boys 14-18 years||11||410|
|Teenage girls 14-18 years||9||360|
Older adults and people with diseases that inhibit zinc absorption may need to take higher-dose zinc supplements. Talk to your doctor before adding any zinc supplement to your diet, and always stick to dosage recommendations to avoid dangerous zinc toxicity symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headache, and reduced immunity.
Some of the foods listed above that are high in zinc are also high in magnesium. For example, legumes, seeds, and nuts, whole grains, and some fish contain both zinc and magnesium… Which brings us to the question:
Can I Take Zinc and Magnesium Together?
Zinc and magnesium are both minerals and are among the most popular mineral supplements. We’re often asked, “Can I take zinc with Natural Calm?” (our magnesium supplement).
The short answer is yes, but not at the same time.
Taking high levels of zinc (142 milligrams a day and up) in supplement form may interfere with magnesium absorption. If you are taking zinc at extremely high doses due to medical issues, take the zinc several hours before or after taking a magnesium supplement.
A study on the “inhibitory effects of zinc on magnesium balance and magnesium absorption” in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition stated:
“Both zinc (Zn) and magnesium (Mg) are widely used as nutritional supplements and the possibility was considered that Zn may interfere with the absorption of Mg, similar to previously reported results [1,2] obtained with the same dose of supplemental Zn on the absorption of calcium (Ca).”
The study concluded that zinc supplements of 142 milligrams a day decreased magnesium absorption in male subjects.
In the vast majority of cases, the answer is clear: Simply space your zinc and magnesium supplements apart so they don’t interfere with one another.
If you’re looking for a highly-absorbable, great-tasting magnesium supplement, try Natural Calm. It’s award-winning and proven by tens of thousands of five-star reviews and testimonials from customers around the world.
If you’re supplementing with both zinc and magnesium, you can try taking Natural Calm magnesium at night and zinc in the morning.
Zinc and Magnesium Compared
|Health effects||Essential for immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis. May have antioxidant properties.||Essential for bone health, muscle and nerve function, and heart health. May have anti-inflammatory properties.|
|Common forms for supplementation||Zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, zinc sulphate||Magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, magnesium glycinate|
|Recommended daily intake for adults||8-11 mg for women, 11-15 mg for men||310-420 mg for women, 400-420 mg for men|
|Food sources||Oysters, beef, crab, fortified cereals, beans||Spinach, almonds, cashews, avocado, black beans|
|Common conditions treated||Zinc may be used to treat the common cold, acne, and age-related macular degeneration.||Magnesium may be used to treat migraines, anxiety, and constipation.|