Zinc is one of the most needed minerals in the human body. Many biochemical reactions in the body need zinc to take place. Over 300 bodily enzymes require zinc to function, for instance. Everything from thyroid function to a healthy immune system depends on this metal.
In fact, of all the minerals, zinc is arguably the single biggest immunity booster because it plays a crucial role in the behavior of T-cells. This is the very reason why HIV and sickle cell anemia sufferers are often prescribed zinc supplements.
Importance of Zinc
It pays to realize zinc’s importance in terms of the consequences of not having enough of it. Granted, the body only needs trace amounts of zinc, but a deficit can be just as dangerous as excess. Zinc deficiency can lead to lower insulin levels, hair loss, diarrhea, nausea, appetite loss, and irritability, among other acute symptoms. Severe deficits can impair the function of the retina, leading to vision problems.
In children, a paucity of zinc can lead to growth stunting. This is because cell division and growth is highly contingent on the availability of the mineral. In pregnant women, zinc deficiency has been associated with miscarriages. Also, too low levels of zinc may impede ovulation.
Pharmaceutical companies have since found countless applications for zinc. One you may not know about is the treatment of acne.
How does Zinc Treat Acne?
Zinc promotes skin repair. With its anti-inflammatory properties, zinc helps soothe sunburns wrinkles and skin rashes.
Without this mineral, the healing time for cuts and wounds, to say nothing of a wide variety of skin conditions, would take longer. Zinc deficit has also been known to result in rough and dry skin. It won’t surprise you to know then that more than one study has linked acne formation with low levels of zinc.
According to one study, zinc expedites skin turnover by way of apoptosis, i.e. programmed cell death. In this process, zinc prevents pore clogging, a known factor in acne formation, by keeping skin cells from clumping together. Another study showed that taking 135 mg of zinc sulfate every day improved acne by about one-third.
Supplementing with Zinc
Scientific studies and expert opinion have pointed out that acne patients responded favorably to zinc sulfate taken orally two to three times a day for four through 12 weeks. Keep in mind, however, that the recommended daily allowance for zinc is only 8-11 mg.
The maximum zinc dosage that can be tolerated by the body in a day is 30-40 mg, according to the FDA. Any higher than that and the body goes into zinc toxicity, a condition characterized by diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea.
Prolonged and excessive intake of zinc has been linked to cardiovascular ailments, anemia, and copper deficiency. Yes, zinc supplementation interferes with the absorption of copper, so supplementing with both zinc and copper would be best.
Topical applications containing a combination of zinc and erythromycin applied twice every day for up to a year have been found to be effective against acne. The same goes for a combination of zinc sulfate (2%) with propylene glycol and ethanol, with noticeable results achieved after 12 weeks of thrice-daily applications. Consult with your dermatologist before self-medicating, however.
As with any vitamin, balance is key in taking minerals. Don’t take too much; don’t take too small. Talk to your nutritionist today for details.
How to Add More Zinc to Your Diet
Rich sources of zinc include such seafood as oysters and crab. Beef, beans, and dairy are also good provenances of the mineral. Many cereal brands are fortified with zinc.
In sum, a diet affluent in meat may give you all the zinc you need for the day. However, if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or on any largely plant-based diet, you may need to supplement because you likely have low levels of zinc.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database has rated oral zinc supplements and zinc-bearing topical substances as “possibly effective” in the treatment of acne.