Can You Overdose on Zinc?

Zinc is one of the essential nutrients for your body. However, you don't need very much of it, and you can easily get these amounts if you eat foods that contain zinc and take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Care is needed when taking zinc supplements, since it is possible to overdose on zinc.

Food Sources

It is unlikely you would overdose on zinc through food, so eating zinc-rich foods can help you to get enough zinc without worrying about getting too much. Red meat, shellfish, dairy, fortified breakfast cereals, whole grains, beans, nuts, poultry, tahini, tofu, cooked greens, mushrooms, green beans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, brewer's yeast and miso all contain zinc.

Supplements

Multivitamin and mineral supplements contain zinc, and there are also zinc supplements you can take separately and cold lozenges containing zinc. Zinc acetate, zinc citrate, zinc glycerate, zinc monomethionine and zinc picolinate are more easily absorbed than zinc sulfate, so choose a supplement containing these types of zinc over zinc sulfate.

Amounts

The recommended dietary allowances, or RDAs, for zinc vary based on age and sex, with a RDA for infants of 2 mg at the low end and 13 mg for breastfeeding females between 14 and 18 years old at the high end. The Food and Nutrition Board, or FNB, has set the tolerable upper intake levels, or ULs, for zinc at 40 mg per day for those 19 and over. Going over this amount puts you at risk of overdosing on zinc.

Symptoms

Nausea, vomiting, stomach upset, loss of appetite, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of muscle coordination, alcohol intolerance, increased sweating, hallucinations, reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins and weakened immune function can occur with zinc overdoses. Zinc interferes with iron and copper absorption, so high levels of zinc can cause low levels of copper and iron and lead to anemia.

Expert Insight

Zinc interacts with some medications, so consult a doctor before taking zinc supplements to make sure this will be safe for you to do, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Your doctor can also advise you on the amount of zinc you should be taking. Because of the interactions with copper, those who take zinc long term should also take copper.

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