Zinc is an essential mineral found in tissues throughout the body. The average adult body contains approximately 1.4 to 2.5 grams of zinc, with the majority stored in muscle tissues and high concentrations found in red and white blood cells. Other organs and tissues with high levels of zinc include the prostate, eyes, liver, skin, hair, and semen. Zinc is a crucial component of over 200 enzymes involved in a wide range of vital body processes.
The best food sources of zinc include shellfish (especially oysters), fish, and red meats. Other sources include whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Because zinc is required for the synthesis of RNA and DNA, it plays a crucial role in the growth and development of the body. Studies on fetal development have shown that improving the zinc status of pregnant women with low zinc levels can have a positive influence on infant birth weight and neurological development. Because of its role in bone and muscle formation, it is important that children have adequate zinc intake to ensure optimal growth.
For general health, the common dosage range for zinc supplementation is 15 to 20 mg per day. For specific health concerns, the dosage range is 30 to 60 mg for men and 30 to 45 mg for women. Intake above 150 mg per day may result in toxic effects such as copper-deficiency anemia and depressed immune function.