Adequate amounts of zinc bolster your immune system and help your body recover from wounds. The mineral also promotes healthy smell and taste function. But like all good things, too much zinc can lead to side effects, in this case chills, chest pain and fatigue. In more serious cases, excessive amounts of zinc supplements can lead to health problems that affect the heart.
Reasons for Supplement
Your doctor may suggest you add a zinc supplement, or multivitamin containing zinc, if she suspects you are deficient in the nutrient. Depression, weight loss and poor appetite, skin problems and difficulty with taste, smell or vision all may point to inadequate zinc. Elderly people and people who regularly drink too much alcohol risk zinc deficiency, as do patients with Crohn’s disease, which prevents proper nutrient absorption. Vegetarians and vegans may not get enough zinc through their diet, because major sources include beef, poultry, seafood and cheese.
Copper Depletion Risk
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, too much zinc over a long time causes copper deficiency in some people. The negative association of the two minerals comes from zinc supplements, rather than from eating zinc-rich foods. One symptom of copper deficiency is onset of irregular heartbeats. If you need a zinc supplement, consider one that also includes copper to achieve a healthy balance of the minerals.
Effect on Cholesterol
UMMC warns that high doses of zinc are linked to unhealthy cholesterol levels. Zinc may both lower high-density lipoprotein, or “good” cholesterol, and increase low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol. Both effects can ultimately lead to heart disease, according to MayoClinic.com. If you are at risk of high cholesterol because of family history or poor lifestyle habits, ask your doctor before using zinc supplements.
While getting enough zinc keeps immune systems healthy, excessive amounts can have the opposite effect, notes the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. When your body doesn’t have adequate immune system response, it is at risk for the damage that free radicals pose. Problems associated with free radical damage include heart disease.
Safe Zinc Amounts
According to the Linus Pauling Institute, teen girls need 9 mg zinc each day, while teen boys need 11 mg zinc. Adult women should get 8 mg of zinc each day. Pregnant and breast-feeding women require 11 mg to 13 mg zinc, depending on age. Adult men should take in 11 mg of zinc. Supplements help achieve those levels for people who don’t get enough zinc from diet. Too much, however, leads to problems such as copper deficiency. Follow supplement directions carefully, and do not take more than the recommended dosage. Adults should not take in more than 40 mg of zinc each day, and teens should keep their intake to 34 mg or less.
- MayoClinic.com; Zinc Supplement (Oral Route, Parenteral Route) ; Side Effects; November 2010
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- Linus Pauling Institute; Zinc; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; December 2003.