Zinc: The all-rounder among the trace elements
Zinc is an essentialtrace element that the body cannot produce itself and we are therefore dependent on a sufficient supply through food or food supplements. Although our body only needs small amounts of zinc every day, the element is essential for our metabolism.Zinc has vital functions in the body
Zinc has vital functions in the human body, as it is a component of more than 300 enzymes and numerous hormones. Without the trace element, many biochemical processes in the body would not be able to take place.Zinc plays a role in fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism and is involved in cell division, wound healing, reproduction and the immune system.
It is important for hair, nails and skin. The trace element is also an antioxidant, which renders free radicals harmless.
The symptoms of a zinc deficiency can therefore manifest themselves in different ways: It can lead to poor wound healing, hair loss, brittle nails, a weakening of the immune system as well as growth and fertility disorders. An adequate supply of zinc is particularly important in childhood and adolescence.Zinc supplementation has a positive effect on skin diseases, liver cirrhosis, diabetes and inflammation of the stomach and intestinal mucosa.
How much zinc should you take in daily
Since last year, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) has stated that the recommended intake for adults depends onthe level of phytate intake. This is because a high phytate intake can reduce the bioavailability of zinc by up to 45%.A brief digression: phytate is a chemical form of phytic acid, which is used by plants to store phosphorus and bind various minerals. Phytic acid forms insoluble compounds with zinc so that it can no longer be absorbed by the body.
The recommended intake for adult women with low, medium or high phytate intake is 7 mg, 8 mg or 10 mg per day. For men, the values are 11 mg, 14 mg and 16 mg of zinc per day. Put simply: the more phytate you consume, the more zinc you need!
The zinc intake of pregnant and breastfeeding women is higher than the requirement of adult women.
What happens if you take in too much zinc
Oversupply through food is hardly possible, as excess zinc is primarily excreted in the faeces. However, if very high doses of supplements are taken, gastrointestinal complaints such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain and vomiting can occur. If too much of the trace element is ingested over a longer period of time, iron and copper absorption can be inhibited, resulting in anaemia.
A long-term intake of 25 mg zinc per day is considered completely safe according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. Our Zinc Tablets, for example, are ideal for this purpose.
So you are adequately supplied as a vegan/vegetarian
If you look at the zinc content of different foods, you will notice that plant-based foods often contain just as much zinc as animal-based foods. Good plant-based sources of zinc include nuts, e.g. cashew nuts and almonds, wholegrain cereals, pulses and seeds. The zinc content of wholegrain products is primarily dependent on the degree of milling of the grain products, as the trace element is found in particular in the outer layers of the grain.However, plant-based foods contain a high level of the above-mentioned phytic acid, which hinders the absorption of zinc. Polyphenols (in tea, coffee and cocoa) and high-dose iron supplements should also not be taken at the same time as meals containing zinc in order not to inhibit zinc absorption. Medications such as laxatives, proton pump inhibitors and cytostatics also have an inhibitory effect on zinc absorption.Preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting, roasting or fermentation can greatly reduce phytic acid and thus increase the bioavailability of zinc. Simultaneous intake of amino acids (especially histidine, methionine and cysteine) as well as organic acids such as lemonic, malic and lactic acid can also increase the absorption of the element.
In general, a vegan diet - with a balanced combination of foods - provides sufficient zinc. You should make sure that substances that inhibit absorption are reduced and substances that promote absorption are increased. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers in particular should make sure they get enough zinc. If you want, you can optimise your zinc intake with supplements.
Zinc and sport
It is known that athletes in particular have an increased needfor zinc, as the trace element is increasingly excreted through sweat or urine during exercise. The loss via sweat or urine can be up to three times higher than in non-active people. In addition, the low zinc stores in the body are quickly depleted during strenuous training. An adequate supply of zinc is therefore essential, especially for athletes.Though the trace element has no direct influence on testosterone production, it can accelerate the regeneration of muscles and the body. As zinc also has positive effects on the immune defence, athletes benefit from supplementation. Physical activity increases the exposure to free radicals. This happens because more oxygen has to be absorbed and burned again. A high concentration of free radicals can damage the cells. Zinc protects the muscle membranes from free radicals and can therefore prevent muscle injuries. This is because it is particularly important for athletes that their immune defence works and that an injury or illness does not ruin their training success.
Supplementation therefore has the advantage for athletes that colds, sore muscles and micro-injuries in the tissue are better prevented.
- Rittenau N. (2019): Goodbye vegan cliché! Scientific answers to critical questions about vegan nutrition. Ventil Verlag, 3rd edition, Mainz.
- Prasad A. S. (2007): Zinc Supplementation Decreases Incidence of Infections in the Elderly: Effect of Zinc on Generation of Cytokines and Oxidative Stress. Am J Clin Nutr 85 (3): 837-844.