Essential Minerals Series: All About Zinc

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Essential Minerals Series: All About Zinc

Zinc is a mineral that we talk about often in our practice, and is the first mineral in our Essential Minerals Blog Post Series by Dr. Clare Sullivan.


Why is talking about zinc so important? Because it is the 2nd most abundant essential trace mineral. It is absorbed in the small intestines and excreted in through the kidneys (urine), skin (sweat) and bowels. It was first discovered to be essential only 50 years ago but since then has been found to be required for optimal health.

Some of the roles of zinc in the body:

  • Immune function
  • Protein synthesis
  • Reproductive health
  • Wound healing
  • Brain function
  • Thyroid health
  • Sense of taste and smell
  • Production of stomach acid
  • Stimulates apoptosis – programmed cell death

What are the signs and symptoms of deficiency?

Although an outright deficiency may be rare in Canada, there can be signs and symptoms of a lack of zinc – whether through inadequate intake or poor absorption.

  • Delay in growth
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Skin lesions/Dry, scaling skin, acne, eczema and psoriasis
  • Altered senses of sight, smell and taste
  • Loss of appetite, nausea or anorexia
  • Impaired immune system
  • Hair loss/Alopecia
  • Diarrhea
  • Impaired testosterone production, infertility & low sperm count
  • Learning and behavior issues
  • Seizures
  • Heart arrhythmia
  • White spots under nails

A key component to remember is that excess zinc is not stored by the body and as such must be consumed on a regular basis.

Foods that which are high in zinc include:

  • Oysters (74mg)
  • Venison (9.8mg)
  • Beef (6.63mg)
  • Spelt (3.86mg)
  • Scallops (3.4mg)
  • Sesame seeds (2.79mg)
  • Pumpkin seeds (2.52mg)

What is the recommended daily intake of zinc?  

This varies depending on your age and your ability to absorb nutrients. Here is a table to help you determine how much zinc you should be getting on a daily basis.

Recommended Daily Intake of Zinc Zinc (mg/day)
Life Stage Group Minimum Maximum
Infants 0-12 mo 0.2 2
Children 1-3 y
4-8 y
Adolescents 9-13 y
14-18 y
Adults 19 y 0.7 50

Testing Your Levels:

  1. Hair element analysis – looks at nutrient status of essential and exposure to toxic elements in previous 3 month (approximately).
  2. Urine element analysis – looks more in depth at essential and toxic elements often using a chelating agent to determine true levels.
  3. Blood tests
    1. RBC Zinc levels – looks at intracellular levels.
    2. Zinc Serum levels – measures levels in the serum.
  4. Zinc Tally Test – a functional test that can be performed in office to determine zinc status.
    1. Deficiency – no taste at all.
    2. Inadequate levels – no immediate taste but after a few seconds mouth may feel dry, furry or metallic.
    3. Moderate levels – a definite strong unpleasant taste is noted almost immediately.
    4. Optimal levels – a strong, unpleasant taste is noted immediately.


If you have questions regarding your zinc levels please contact your Naturopathic Doctor to have your levels tested or to discuss supplementation.