Zinc is a naturally occurring essential mineral that is present in some foods and is also widely available as a nutritional supplement, either by itself or combined with other vitamins and minerals. Zinc serves many important roles in both men and women, including immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc supplementation may offer women additional benefits. As with any nutritional supplement, consult your physician before using any zinc supplement, especially if you are pregnant or lactating.
Zinc supplementation may improve some of the negative effects associated with menstruation in women, including premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, because of the mineral's ability to regulate the secretion of progesterone, which may increase the risk of developing PMS According to a 2007 study published in the "Journal of Medical Hypotheses," zinc supplementation in women may prevent dysmenorrhea, or menstrual cramps.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, an estimated 82 percent of pregnant women worldwide are likely to suffer from a zinc deficiency. This may be because more zinc is required during pregnancy to ensure the natural health and development of the fetus. Zinc deficiencies in pregnant women may play a role in a number of adverse outcomes of pregnancy, including low birth weight, premature birth, delivery complications, and congenital abnormalities. Adequate zinc intake in women during pregnancy may reduce the risk of these complications.
Elderly and post-menopausal women may require more zinc than elderly men. Plasma zinc levels decrease as you get older, even if your zinc intake remains the same. As you age, the amount of zinc your body is able to absorb decreases, which may require you to ingest more zinc to prevent a deficiency. Older women may be more susceptible to a zinc deficiency than older men. This may be due to the higher dietary intake of calcium in older women for the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. Calcium competes with zinc for absorption, and increasing calcium intake in elderly women may reduce zinc absorption.
According to a 2010 study published by the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition," zinc supplementation may improve mood in women, and may even be an effective treatment for depression in women. In the study, women who supplemented with 7 mg of zinc daily for 10 weeks showed a significant reduction in anger and depression and scored higher on a Profile of Mood State exam as compared to women who took a placebo and women who took a multivitamin containing zinc. Taking zinc supplements by themselves may increase serum levels of zinc in your bloodstream because it is more readily absorbed than in a multivitamin, where zinc has to compete for absorption with other vitamins and minerals.
- Office of Dietary Supplements; Zinc; 2011
- "Medical Hypotheses"; Zinc Treatment Prevents Dysmenorrhea; G. A. Eby; 2007
- Linus Pauling Institute; Zinc; Jane Higdon; 2003
- "The New Encyclopedia of Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements, and Herbs"; Nicola Reavley; 1999