Zinc is a mineral that is part of a large number of enzymes in the body, which are involved in metabolism. Zinc is needed in the development of proteins, growth and development of tissue and proper functioning of the immune system. Zinc is an antioxidant: it protects the cells in the body from free radicals. Free radicals play a role in aging processes.
Zinc is found in small quantities in many different foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, brewer’s yeast, cheese, cereals, nuts, coffee, tea and seafood like prawns and mussels.
- Important for fertility and good for the quality of sperm and normal testosterone levels in blood.
- Good for nails, skin and hair; it keeps hair strong and shiny and contributes to normal hair growth.
- Contributes to normal intelligence and problem solving skills.
- Keeps the mind clear and good for memory and concentration.
- Positive effect on the immune system.
- Helps in protecting body cells from external influences, such as air pollution, UV radiation and free radicals.
- Important for the eyes: it plays a role in functioning of the retina and helps to keep seeing clearly in the dark.
- Plays a role in the development of body protein and DNA and supports the process of cell renewal.
- Important for vitamin A metabolism.
Infants can, due to a shortage of zinc, catch growth retardation and severe malnutrition. Other effects of zinc shortage may include: delayed growth, impaired taste and smell, prostate problems, infertility, hair loss, skin defects and night blindness.
An acute excess of zinc is rare in humans. When a large dose of zinc is ingested at once, this is caused by food or drink that had come into contact with galvanized tin. The symptoms that occur here include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Prolonged intake of too much zinc may result in anemia and a reduced immune system.
- Zinc is one of the most versatile working minerals. It plays a role in hundreds of biological processes in the body.
- More than half of the amount of zinc in the body is located in the muscles and a third is in the bones. The liver, kidneys, prostate, hair and eyes also contain zinc.
- The term ‘zinc’ is derived from the High German word Zinke (tooth; the form in which metal is deposited in the smelting furnace).
- Zinc was discovered in 1746 by the German chemist Andreas Sigismund Marggraf.
- In the periodic table of elements, zinc has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. The color is silver-gray.
- Zinc is a trace element. This means that only very small quantities are needed (micrograms to milligrams).