Can You Eat Too Much Zinc? Here’s What Nutritionists Say

Although zinc is important for health, there is a fine line between getting enough and eating too much. But what exactly is zinc, and how much do you need? What are the warning signs of binge eating? Should you take a supplement? Continue reading to find out.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a trace mineral found in cells throughout the body. This vital energy is important for a variety of body functions, including immune function, wound healing, DNA synthesis and proper growth and development. Zinc also supports metabolism by helping more than 300 enzymes in the body do their jobs properly, from breaking down food to building proteins. In addition, zinc can help protect the health of your skin against the harmful rays of the sun and reduce the risk of skin cancer. Not getting enough zinc can affect your ability to taste and smell.

How Much Do You Need?

The amount of zinc you need varies by age, sex and stage of life. The National Institutes of Health recommends 11 milligrams per day for adult men and 8 milligrams for adult women. Pregnant and lactating women need 11 and 12 milligrams, respectively, to support fetal development and milk production. It is important to note that these recommendations include zinc intake from all sources, including food, beverages and supplements.

Do You Need a Zinc Supplement?

Most Americans get enough zinc from the foods they eat—such as oysters, meat, fish, and fortified grains—but others may struggle to meet their needs and need tools.

Whether you will benefit from zinc supplementation depends on various factors, such as diet, health status and lifestyle. For example, those following a vegan or vegetarian diet may benefit from taking a zinc supplement. This is because plant-based sources of zinc—such as beans, nuts, and grains—contain phytates, making them less readily available than animal sources.

Caroline Young, RD, registered dietitian and owner of Whole Self Nutrition, says EatingWell“Zinc supplements may be necessary for those with gastrointestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease, or autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease. Also, those with alcoholism may ‘ do they need to supplement with zinc because they often have low levels of zinc as alcohol interferes with the absorption of zinc.”

Can You Take Zinc?

Chronic zinc toxicity can interfere with copper absorption, leading to copper deficiency and neurological symptoms such as numbness and weakness. To prevent adverse effects and maintain overall health and well-being, it is best to get zinc from a balanced diet and avoid excessive supplementation unless advised by a healthcare professional.

Be very careful with your zinc intake if you are taking over-the-counter products such as cold medicine, Airborne or Zicam. These products are often marketed to support the immune system and may be high in zinc. Although zinc is really helpful when you are sick or feeling down, taking too many foods, supplements and medications can lead to negative health effects.

“Healthy adults should not have more than 40 milligrams of zinc daily,” warns Young, as the NIH considers the upper tolerable limit. “However, this amount does not apply to those taking zinc for medical reasons, but their supplementation should be medically monitored.”

Signs and Symptoms

Although zinc is important for a variety of body functions, consuming too much can cause serious side effects. According to the NIH, these symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • No appetite
  • Stomach pressure

In addition, consuming too much zinc can cause nutrient deficiencies by interfering with your ability to absorb other important minerals, such as copper.

Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements, says, “Long-term use of zinc supplements may damage the body’s immune system. disease and increase the risk of chronic conditions such as copper deficiency, which can manifest as anemia and neurological symptoms.”

If you are taking zinc and experience any adverse side effects, stop taking your supplement and consult a health care provider.

The Bottom Line

Zinc is an essential mineral for various body functions and general health. However, like most nutrients, too much zinc can have negative effects. Whether you’re taking zinc supplements or thinking about starting, it’s important to make sure you’re eating the right foods. The best way to accurately measure zinc levels is to consult a health care provider for blood tests.

Although a supplement may help some, eating foods rich in zinc, such as oysters, meat, fish and fortified cereals, is ideal for meeting your daily needs. Try including these seven zinc-rich foods in your diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How much zinc a day?

    The upper intake level (UL) for zinc in adults is 40 milligrams per day. Consuming zinc above this limit can lead to adverse effects and symptoms of toxicity.

  • What are the side effects of too much zinc in the body?

    Consuming too much zinc can cause stomach problems, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Other symptoms may include dizziness, headache, weakness and interference with copper absorption, which can lead to weakness.

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