How Zinc Supplements May Cause More Harm Than Good


Zinc, this metal is used throughout the body for several processes in the body making it a vital part of our daily required nutrition. Like with other nutrients, getting zinc from natural sources through a balanced diet is the best way to avoid a deficiency. Foods like dairy, meat, seafood, nuts, legumes, seeds as well as mushrooms, spinach and garlic are all great natural sources of zinc. When your diet is not balanced, or if you’re unable to eat foods that help you to meet your daily requirement for zinc, the risk of a deficiency is increased. Some symptoms of a zinc deficiency include sudden weight loss, diarrhoea, sores on the skin, cuts and wounds that take a long time to heal, loss of smell, taste and alertness. A blood plasma test is required to properly diagnose a zinc deficiency. While some infants and older adults are most at risk for such a deficiency, it can occur in anyone. In pregnant mothers, a zinc deficiency can affect the baby’s growth and development. Additionally, zinc is required for growth and development in humans, so it is vital to have enough zinc in the body. For this reason, many people take zinc supplements to avoid the effects of a deficiency or in some cases, to protect against a cold.

Let’s take a look at the negative effects zinc can have on your body:

Nausea and Digestion Issues: Nausea is a well known symptom of taking zinc supplements. The suggested maximum amount for zinc is 40 milligrams a day, but even lower doses can cause stomach issues like pain and discomfort. These effects are more noticeable when zinc supplements are taken on an empty stomach. Excessive amounts of zinc can even lead to diarrhoea.

Anaemia: Anaemia is a condition in the body where red blood cells are reduced, the root cause of fewer red blood cells being produced can be a variety of things. One of these root causes is iron deficiency anaemia (IDA), which is the most common anaemia type. This occurs when iron is not being absorbed properly by your body, and zinc is known to reduce the absorption of iron. In this way, too much zinc in the body, due to zinc supplements, can cause an iron absorption problem, which can lead to anaemia.

Interactions with Medications: Zinc supplements are known to have negative interactions with common prescription medications, either lowering the potency of the medicine or causing some kind of harmful reaction in your body. Certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs (nonsteroidal), common prescription medicines and immunosuppressants can all have interactions with zinc. For this reason, zinc supplements with high levels of elemental zinc should be taken with caution, and your doctor should be aware of all other medication you are currently taking.

Zinc Toxicity: Chronically taking high doses of zinc long-term can lead to zinc toxicity. The symptoms can include diarrhoea, headaches, vomiting and stomach aches. Additionally, chronic zinc toxicity can cause interactions with iron and copper inside the body, as well as reduce good cholesterol. While zinc is an important part of your immune health, zinc toxicity can have the opposite effect and lower your immune function. This can lead to the development of even more health conditions.The RDA (recommended dietary allowance) for zinc in adults is 11mg for males and 8mg for females, the maximum upper limit is 40mg. Exceeding the RDA for zinc regularly by taking high doses of zinc supplements can cause this kind of zinc toxicity. Zinc is necessary for vital functions like cell division, cell growth, injury healing, immune system function, as well as breaking down carbohydrates. However, it is best to acquire zinc through natural food sources, as you can see that zinc supplements carry certain risks. If dietary zinc is not possible, supplements should only be taken under medical supervision and you should follow the dosage prescribed by your doctor. In cases of zinc deficiency, it should be safe to take supplements to meet your requirements. Be sure to inform your doctor of all other medication you are taking at the moment, and do not take extra doses of zinc supplements as a method for improving your immune system. This can lead to health issues as outlined above, as well as lower your immunity.