Zinc is essential for the body to develop and function normally. However, it's important you have the right amount.
What is zinc?
It's an essential trace nutrient found in all the cells in the body, with highest concentrations found in muscles and bones. It is also found in hair, eyes, nails, skin, liver, prostate and testes.
How do I know I am deficient in zinc?
A zinc deficiency can weaken the immune system and slow wound healing. It may also cause tiredness.
Zinc deficiency is more common in older people, those living in care homes, and in people who take diuretics (drugs used to treat various disorders, including high blood pressure) and in people who are misuse alcohol. It is also more common in those with health conditions such as diabetes, and long-term liver disease and long-term kidney disease.
How much zinc do I need?
In the UK, the reference daily intake of zinc is 5.5 to 9.5mg for men and 4 to 7mg for women.
How do I get enough zinc in my diet?
Most people in the UK can get enough zinc from eating a healthy diet, so taking zinc supplements isn't necessary.
Meat, shellfish, dairy foods such as milk and cheese, bread, pulses and cereals are good sources of dietary zinc.
Can I have too much zinc?
Yes, and excess zinc can have potentially damaging effects. High doses can make it harder for the body to absorb copper.
A copper deficiency can cause anaemia, low white blood cell count, nerve damage and weakening of the bones.
If you take zinc supplements, don't take too much. The NHS advises no more than 25mg of zinc supplements a day, unless otherwise advised by a doctor.
Zinc lozenges, tablets or syrup, taken within 24 hours of symptoms starting, may shorten the length of a cold by about a day and reduce its severity.