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Function of Zinc in the Body and Dietary Sources of Zinc


Zinc is an essential mineral for different metabolic processes, but do you know what its functions are? In this article, we will detail it. Do you know what is the function of zinc in the body? This mineral is essential and extremely important for the body, so it must provide adequate amounts in the diet.

Because this nutrient has a specific role in more than 300 enzymes, it participates in all biochemical reactions in the human body. Therefore, zinc values have a direct effect on growth, development, neurological behavior, and the immune system.

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What is the Function of Zinc?

Both zinc, copper, and selenium are involved in processes necessary for the development of life. This element is present in all organs, tissues, fluids, and secretions of the human body. It has catalytic functions, increasing the speed of chemical reactions. In the same way, it fulfills structural and regulatory roles. According to the study Zinc: an essential trace element acts on brain function, where it has a modulating effect on neuronal communication.

It also maintains the integrity of the cell membrane and the balance of tissues. In bone, in particular, it is a constituent of the bone matrix, helping the formation of new osteoblasts. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties and prevents cell damage. It is a regulatory agent in different mediators of immunity, as it intervenes in the activation, growth, and functioning of immune cells. Therefore, it promotes wound healing.

In the cardiovascular system, it regulates blood pressure. For this reason, it acts on cardiorespiratory function and in promoting strength in healthy people and athletes. In these cases, supplementation with zinc also has positive effects on training.

It is essential, on the other hand, for the sense of taste to work, which stimulates the appetite. In the recovery of patients suffering from anorexia nervosa, supplementation with zinc promotes weight gain and improves symptoms of anxiety and depression.


How Much Zinc Do You Need?

In general, 83% of the zinc we have in the body found in the cells that make up the muscles and bones. Because there is no specific place to store this nutrient, there is no way to compensate for dietary deficiencies.

According to various studies, the daily amount needed depends on age. In the case of an adult, this value is between 8 and 11 milligrams per day for women and men, respectively. Likewise, there are stages such as pregnancy and lactation in which the needs increase to 13 milligrams per day.

Additionally, bottle-fed infants have a higher requirement, due to the lower bioavailability of this mineral in infant milk formulas.


What are the Dietary Sources?

Fortunately, this nutrient widely distributed in different foods, but as with other elements, its content is variable. In this sense, the primary dietary sources are the following:

  • Products of marine origin, especially shellfish (oysters and crustaceans).
  • Meats, in particular organs and muscles of cattle, pigs, poultry, and fish.
  • Dairy products and eggs.
  • Plant-based foods, such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

This mineral linked to proteins and nucleic acids, so its bioavailability conditioned to it. Thus, zinc from vegetables is less absorbed, due to the presence of phytic acid, a substance that forms insoluble complexes that hinder its intestinal absorption.

What Happens if you don’t get Enough Zinc?

Being a nutrient present in various dietary sources, the deficiency is rare. However, this does not mean that it does not occur. According to data from the National Institute of Health, its deficit causes alterations in all those reactions in which it intervenes. It can have an impact in the following ways:

  • The decreased growth rate of babies and children.
  • Delayed sexual development in adolescents, as well as impotence in men.
  • Hair loss, eye, and skin injuries.
  • Loss of appetite, diarrhea, and decreased body weight.
  • Reduced sense of taste and concentration levels.
  • Depression of immune function.


What to Remember?

As you will see, this mineral has various actions in the body, so its contribution must be adequate at all stages of life. To ensure that you are meeting your daily recommendation, you should consult a nutrition professional for better advice on this.

From the sense of taste to the activity of the immune system, the range of processes that depend on zinc levels is extensive. A varied diet should be sufficient to meet these requirements.

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