You may have heard that you shouldn't take too much zinc because it can interfere with copper absorption. While this is true, the amount of zinc it takes to affect your copper levels is much higher than you might expect. And not taking enough zinc every day could significantly increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease, and diabetes.
Zinc deficiency is a major problem for those over the age of 60. About 40% in this age group are deficient. And the problem is only going to get worse. That's because there's a lot of misinformation about zinc and your ability to absorb zinc declines with age.
For years, the medical profession has frowned on taking supplemental zinc, thinking you would get enough from your diet. While eating a lot of meat provides you with your best dietary zinc, it could be one-tenth the amount you really need. And unless you're on a high-protein diet, you're not eating that much meat.
A new study from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University and the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences showed just how much zinc you need to take. And it showed that if you're not taking enough zinc, the resulting deficiency can lead to serious health problems.
In this study, the researchers looked at older animals. They measured their zinc levels, compared them to younger animals' zinc levels and to their level of inflammatory disease. They found that the lower the animals' level of zinc, the more DNA damage they suffered. And the more inflammation they had. What's more, the lower levels were common even though the animals were eating a diet with supposedly adequate amounts of zinc.
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In fact, the researchers didn't see the animals' inflammatory markers return to normal until they gave them 10 times their dietary intake of zinc. You might want to read that again. It took 10 times the amount of supposedly "adequate" zinc to lower their inflammation.
The RDA for zinc supplementation is 11 mg per day for men and 8 mg per day for women. That's hardly enough to correct a zinc deficiency. It will likely take at least 15 mg every day to keep your levels stable as you age. But if you're already deficient, you could need as much as 30 mg per day. Most vegetarians need to take 30 mg every day simply because they aren't getting enough zinc in their diet.
So how much zinc is too much? Most experts agree that taking over 40 mg per day could begin to affect your copper absorption. However, taking up to 40 mg is within the acceptable limits. I suspect we'll see this number go up over time, as we see the research on zinc expand. Remember, your ability to absorb zinc declines with age, and it took 10 times the dietary intake to reduce inflammation in animals. Plus, if you're already deficient, you may need to take a loading dose to restore your levels.
I know people who have taken up to 100 mg or more per day for years with no side effects at all. The side effects would be nausea, headaches, lethargy, irritability, excess urinating, stomach irritation, and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, you'll definitely want to lower your dose. If you're going to take more than 40 mg per day, talk to your doctor and ask him or her to monitor your iron and copper levels to make sure it doesn't cause you to become anemic.
Two final tidbits: If you suffer from a cold, take as much as 75 mg of zinc for the first few days and you'll likely see your cold disappear quickly. Taking that much for a few days won't affect your copper and iron absorption, and it's unlikely to cause side effects. Secondly, the type of zinc you take can make a huge difference. On a daily basis, you can take zinc glycinate, gluconate, or acetate, as these will help keep your levels stable. But if you need to boost your levels, make sure you're taking zinc acetate. It is the best absorbed form - and is by far the best for fighting colds, inflammation, and other zinc-deficiency-related illnesses.
If you're taking a high-quality multivitamin like Healthy Resolve, you're already getting about 15 mg daily. To boost your levels, I strongly recommend you try Advanced Zinc Lozenges. While they can leave a little metal taste in your mouth, they are made with zinc acetate, which is very hard to find. Again, this is the best form to take to improve your zinc levels and fight disease.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.