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October 2nd, 2014



Zinc (Zn) is a vital mineral that is distributed in small amounts throughout the human body.  It plays an important role in protein formation; is believed to have antioxidant properties; as well as helps speed up the body’s healing process.   Zinc also helps with sight and olfactory sense.

Recently there is a trend showing an increase of zinc consumption (in supplementary tablets, not zinc metal!) for health benefits. Zinc is found in meat, liver and seafood, especially oysters. It can also be found in milk and nuts.

Some people in developing countries severely lack zinc, although many strict vegans also have a zinc deficiency.  This can result in growth retardation, hair loss, or poor eyesight.


It has been claimed that zinc supplements can help prevent and relieve the common cold, prostate gland hyperplasia, and age–related muscular degeneration or AMD. The prostate gland has high levels of zinc, and people with insufficient zinc also have low testosterone. However, increased zinc intake does not aid in healing prostate gland hyperplasia or improve men’s sexual health.

A study has found a correlation between men that receive 100 milligrams of supplementary zinc a day and an increase risk of developing prostate gland cancer, especially if continued for over 10 years. The is due to the reason that zinc increases testosterone levels, which increases risk of developing prostate gland cancer.

Zinc is also useful for AMD prevention.  Research shows that consumption of supplementary zinc combined with Catranides can slow down degeneration in AMD patients.  However, for men taking zinc to prevent or manage AMD, keep in mind the effect it has on the prostate gland.  Practice moderate zinc intake, and do not exceed 70 milligrams per day.


Laboratory research shows that zinc can hinder the growth of the rhinovirus, the culprit behind the common cold (Flu virus may be different), by preventing the virus from expanding in the nasal mucus membrane.  However, studies outside the lab show no evident result that zinc can prevent the common cold.

Although zinc is natural, an excessive amount can harm our body (an excess of anything usually is). A normal and balanced diet will not result in excessive zinc build-up in your system.  However, supplementary zinc can be dangerous if consumed over a long period of time. It can harm the body’s immune system and have a negative effect on the HDL cholesterol level. It also interferes with absorption of other minerals in the digestive tract.

I would suggest that there is no need to take supplementary zinc (or zinc nasal spray) to prevent colds, but zinc-rich foods can be healthy. Elder people who do not eat meat should take supplementary vitamins and maintain healthy zinc levels. For AMD patients, consult the doctor to see whether extra zinc is needed.

Balance is the key.  There is a limit to the amount vitamins and minerals a healthy body requires to function properly.  Excessive intake of supplements will only exhaust your body unnecessarily, as it has to rid the system of that excess.

Prof Nithi Mahanonda is consultant cardiologist and interventionist, Perfect Heart Institute.




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