Trace elements

Zinc : all about this essential trace element

Zinc is a trace element essential to the body in small quantities. He has long been known for his many health benefits. Indeed, it is a powerful antioxidant that stimulates the immune system and has a beneficial effect on the skin and hair.

Characteristics of zinc:

  • Trace element essential for many metabolic reactions
  • Antioxidant that boosts the immune system
  • Mostly found in offal and seafood
  • A deficiency may have more or less serious consequences
  • Beyond 15 mg daily, it can also have adverse health consequences

Why consume foods rich in zinc?


Stimulates the immune defenses

Zinc allows the synthesis of prostaglandins, derivatives of Omega fatty acids (3 and 6). Prostaglandins have an anti-inflammatory role and protect the body from the harmful effects of chronic inflammation. In addition, zinc increases the production of T cells and allows their activation. Because of this, it has an interesting anti-infectious action.

Zinc, beauty of the skin and acne

This trace element keeps skin and hair healthy. It accelerates healing and cleanses the skin. Thus, a good zinc intake is effective to fight against acne, psoriasis or eczema. In the hair, it promotes radiance and robustness.

Taste and smell

It helps preserve the senses, especially those of taste and smell. It is often used to treat taste disorders (ageusia, dysgeusia, taste changes, etc.) that occur as a result of heavy drug treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.


Zinc is one of the antioxidant molecules that allow the body to fight against free radicals. As a result, it helps to preserve cells from oxidative stress and premature cell aging.

20 foods rich in zinc

Foods Servings (mg)
Pacific Oysters, Raw or Steamed100 g (2 to 4 means)17-33 mg
Veal liver, sauteed or braised100 g11-12 mg
Beef, shoulder, flank or sirloin, braised100 g7-11 mg
Shoulder of veal100 g8-9 mg
Shank or Shoulder of Lamb, Braised100 g8 mg
Crab steamed or boiled100 g4-8 mg
Lobsters, boiled or steamed100 g7 mg
Beef or pork liver, sauteed or braised100 g5-7 mg
Pork shoulder, braised or roasted100 g4-5 mg
Lean ground beef, 17% MF, grilled100 g5 mg
Lean lamb, roasted100 g5 mg
Germ of raw wheat30 g3 mg
Sesame seeds dehydrated or roasted1/4 cup (60 mL)3 mg
Sesame butter, tahini, unroasted seeds30 ml (2 tablespoons)3 mg
Clams100 g (13 medium)3 mg
Lobster steamed100 g3 mg
Chicken, brown meat, boiled100 g3 mg
Dried shiitake mushrooms10 mushrooms (36 g)3 mg
Cooked legumes250 ml (1 cup)2-3 mg
Pumpkin and squash seeds, whole, roasted or dehydrated1/4 cup (60 mL)2-3 mg

How to use zinc well?

Use of zinc

Zinc and food: the daily needs

Recommended Dietary Allowance (ANR)
Babies 0-6 months2 mg *
Babies 7-12 months3 mg
Babies 1-3 years old3 mg
Children 4-8 years old5 mg
Boys 9-13 years old8 mg
Girls 9-13 years old8 mg
Boys 14-18 years old11 mg
Girls 14-18 years old9 mg
Men 19-50 years old11 mg
Women 19-50 years old8 mg
Men 50 and over11 mg
Women 50 and over8 mg
Pregnant women11 mg
Nursing women12 mg

* Sufficient contributions

Zinc-based food supplements

Zinc-based dietary supplements are often used to stimulate immune defenses and restore radiance to skin and hair. If they can have positive effects in small doses, it is recommended not to exceed 15 mg per day to avoid an overdose. In any case, seek the advice of your doctor before taking zinc supplementation.

Undesirable effects of zinc

Zinc deficiency

Zinc deficiency usually results in intense fatigue, hair loss, decreased immune defenses and skin disorders. It is also possible to feel a decrease in visual acuity and smell. A lack of zinc intake is even more serious in young children and pregnant women since it can be responsible for fetal malformations and stunting.

Zinc excess

In case of excess, zinc increases oxidative stress and weakens immune defenses. It can also cause kidney and urinary disorders. In addition, over-consumption of zinc could lower the level of “good” cholesterol and expose people to long-term cardiovascular risk. It is inadvisable to exceed the nutritional recommendations, so be careful with food supplements that contain it.

Interactions with other nutrients

Zinc is a fragile trace element that is subject to numerous interactions in the body. Animal protein increases its assimilation while phytates present in whole grains reduce it considerably. In addition, dietary supplements made of copper and iron reduce the absorption of zinc in the body. Finally, zinc has reduced its assimilation during certain drug treatments based on cyclins and antibiotic molecules.

Chemical Properties

The zinc symbol is Zn and its atomic number is 30. Its density is 7, and its atomic mass is 65,409 u. Zinc is a gray-blue transition metal.

Zinc sulphate is in the form of white crystals and is composed of zinc cations and sulphate anions. Its chemical formula is ZnSO4 and its molar mass is 161.44 g / mol. Zinc sulphate is extremely soluble in water. It is used in pharmaceutical and to preserve leather and wood.

Nutrient History

The earliest traces of zinc use date back to ancient times. In the twelfth century in India, zinc will be used extensively in the metallurgy sector and then gradually exported to the West.

It will be necessary to wait until 1800 for the first alloys containing zinc to be developed. In 1850, the chemist E. Frankland discovers the first organometallic compounds based on zinc. Until the late 1970s, zinc will primarily serve to protect iron from corrosion. Thus, it will allow the development of the use of iron in architecture and railway construction.

Now zinc is becoming more and more interesting to biochemists for the fundamental roles it plays in metabolic reactions.

Also read: Nickel : use and definition of this element