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Zinc Vitamin Benefits and Disadvantages

By Angela Lang

Zinc assists in the functioning of more than 300 enzymes and is a factor in numerous biological processes. The recommended intake of zinc, set by the Institute of Medicine, is 8 milligrams per day for women and 11 milligrams for men. Before modifying your intake either through diet or supplementation, you should understand the benefits and disadvantages zinc offers.

Improved Immune Function

The body uses zinc to produce and activate T-lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, which plays an important role in the immune system. Low levels of zinc in elderly people increase susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc also helps with wound healing, which helps prevent infection.

Help With the Common Cold

Zinc lozenges may decrease the duration of the common cold if taken within 24 hours of when symptoms begin. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, the effectiveness of this treatment is controversial. As a result, if you see no improvement in symptoms after three to five days of zinc treatment, you should call a doctor.

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Delaying Age-related Macular Degeneration

Zinc combined with other antioxidants may delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration and vision loss, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. The office reports that research is still being conducted and recommends speaking with your physician about the possibility of using a zinc supplement.

Improved Pregnancy

Pregnant women with adequate levels of zinc in their bodies have better pregnancy outcomes, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Inadequate zinc intakes are associated with difficulties including low birth weight, premature delivery, labor and delivery complications and birth defects.

Decrease of Copper Absorption

High zinc intakes may decrease the absorption of copper. This reaction, which occurs when taking large quantities of zinc such as 50 milligrams per day or more, may lead to a copper deficiency. Copper is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body, maintaining hair color and making hormones.

Interacting With Medication

Taking a zinc supplement at the same time as some antibiotics, specifically tetracyclines and quinolones, may decrease the absorption of the medication and make it less effective for the treatment of the bacteria. Other medications such as some anti-seizure medicines and diuretics may precipitate zinc deficiencies if taken together.

Diminished Sense of Smell

Using an intranasal zinc product may lead to a loss of smell, as has been demonstrated during laboratory experiments, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Since this problem may be irreversible, zinc nasal supplements should be avoided.

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