Mental Health A-Z What Does Zinc Do For the Body and Mind? By Toketemu Ohwovoriole Toketemu Ohwovoriole LinkedIn Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics. Learn about our editorial process Published on May 26, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Happens When You Have a Zinc Deficiency? What Causes a Zinc Deficiency? Body Benefits Mind Benefits Zinc-Containing Foods Zinc is a nutrient that can be found in several foods. It’s also an essential mineral your body and mind need to function optimally. It is a trace mineral meaning you only need a small amount, but it is vital for many chemical reactions in the body involving cell growth, healing, and immune function. This article will look at what zinc does for the body and mind and why you need to include the recommended daily requirement in your diet. What Happens When You Have a Zinc Deficiency? A zinc deficiency happens when your body isn’t getting enough zinc to function properly. This could be because of a medical condition or a deficit in your diet. It can be improved by making dietary changes or taking zinc supplements. In children, zinc deficiency could slow down growth and development. Some symptoms of zinc deficiency include: Hair loss Diarrhea Loss of appetite Weight loss Fatigue Slowed growth or development Problems with your sense of taste and smell Difficulty seeing in the dark Skin sores Having wounds that are difficult to heal What Causes a Zinc Deficiency? Several things could be responsible for causing a zinc deficiency, from developing certain medical conditions to changes in diet. Some of the most common reasons or factors that put you at risk of developing a zinc deficiency include: Having a digestive disorder such as Crohn’s disease Having sickle cell disease Being vegetarian (this could reduce zinc-rich food sources) Abusing alcohol, which could reduce the amount of zinc in your body and increase the amount of zinc your body loses Being over the age of 65 Being pregnant or lactating Having severe or persistent diarrhea Benefits of Zinc for Your Body Zinc has several benefits for your body. It’s beneficial and crucial for the optimal functioning of several bodily functions. Some of the most important benefits of zinc include: Immune System: Zinc is essential for the normal development and function of cells in your immune system. When your body has low zinc levels, your immune system will be affected, and you are more at risk of developing an infection. Skin Health: Zinc is vital to maintain and improve your skin’s health. If you have low zinc levels, you might find that wounds are slower to heal than usual. In a 2018 study, researchers observed that zinc plays an essential role in every stage of the wound healing process. Antioxidant: Zinc has been proven to have antioxidant properties that can help decrease the risk for several chronic aging-related conditions such as cardiac disorders and certain cancers. Diarrhea treatment: Research shows that zinc supplementation can be helpful in the management of diarrhea in children. The World Health Organization recommends giving children with acute diarrhea 20 mg of zinc supplements for 10 to 14 days to reduce the severity diarrhea and prevent it from recurring for up to three months. Bone health: Research shows that maintaining healthy zinc levels may help prevent bone health conditions such as osteoporosis. This is because zinc is essential for the maintenance of healthy bones. Zinc also appears to aid bone regeneration. However, further research needs to be done to understand how exactly zinc can help to aid bone regeneration. Sexual health: Low zinc levels have been linked to several sexual health problems like infertility. In a 2021 study, researchers found that giving zinc supplements to postmenopausal women with low sex drive significantly improved their sexual desire and satisfaction. Cold treatment: Zinc has proven to be very effective in improving the symptoms of a cold. Research shows that taking zinc lozenges within the first 24 hours of a cold can reduce the severity of your symptoms and alleviate them more quickly. Macular degeneration: Macular degeneration brought on by age may be able to be slowed by ensuring you are getting enough zinc in your diet. Benefits of Zinc for Your Mind A lot of focus is often put on the benefits of zinc for your body. However, zinc is also very beneficial for your mind. Some of the benefits of zinc for your mind include: Memory: There has been early research into how zinc may improve your memory and learning function. In a 2017 study, researchers found that rats who had been given zinc supplements showed signs of improved memory and mental functioning. Depression: Some research shows that people with depression have lower zinc levels than non-depressed controls. This has led to research into whether zinc could positively This leads researchers to believe that uptake in zinc could positively affect depression symptoms. However, more research needs to be done to validate this theory. Zinc-Containing Foods Children and adults need to get adequate amounts of zinc, no matter their age or sex. The recommended daily intake for children is between three to eight milligrams daily. For adults, the recommended daily intake is eight to eleven milligrams. Zinc-Rich Food Sources The following foods are excellent sources of zinc: Fish Beans Nuts Red meatOysters DairyFortified breakfast cereals Whole grains For people who don’t have access to enough zinc through foods, taking zinc supplements is an option you should consider. It’s essential to take these supplements exactly as prescribed because consuming an excess of zinc could lead to zinc toxicity. Symptoms of zinc toxicity include: Diarrhea Stomach pain Headaches Appetite loss NauseaVomiting The 6 Best Supplements for Depression, According to a Dietitian A Word From Verywell If you think you might be low on zinc, it's best to consult your physician and they can assess this and can help guide you so you can safely introduce more zinc into your diet if necessary. Natural Supplements May Help Treat Mental Health Conditions, Study Says 15 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Mount Sinai Health System. Zinc information. National Library of Medicine. Zinc in Diet. Oregon State University. Zinc. Shankar AH, Prasad AS. Zinc and immune function: the biological basis of altered resistance to infection. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1998;68(2):447S-463S. 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Supplementation with zinc in rats enhances memory and reverses an age-dependent increase in plasma copper. Behavioural Brain Research. 2017;333:179-183. Portbury SD, Adlard PA. Zinc signal in brain diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(12):2506. National Institutes of Health. Zinc. Harvard School of Public Health. Zinc. By Toketemu Ohwovoriole Toketemu has been multimedia storyteller for the last four years. Her expertise focuses primarily on mental wellness and women’s health topics. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.