Zinc is an essential trace mineral that you must obtain from food to meet your needs. Adequate intakes of zinc support your immune system, help in wound healing and are required for protein synthesis. Healthy adult men need 11 milligrams of zinc a day, and healthy adult women need 8 milligrams. Not getting enough or getting too much zinc can have lead to serious side effects.
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Inadequate intakes of zinc in men can lead to hypogonadism, a condition in which men do not produce enough testosterone, according to a review in the 2009 issue of the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition." Hypogonadism in young men can delay the onset of puberty and affect normal growth and development. In older men, it can lead to erectile dysfunction, infertility, a decrease in muscle mass, a decrease in bone mass and the development of breast tissue. It can also lead to fatigue, affect your concentration and cause hot flashes.
Delay Growth and Development
Inadequate intakes of zinc can also affect normal growth and development. Older infants, between the ages of 7 to 12 months, who rely solely on breast milk as their primary source of nutrition are at risk of not getting enough zinc in their diets. Zinc-deficient infants with mild to moderate growth failure can improve growth with supplementation, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. If you breast-feed, be sure you get adequate zinc intake, without going over your recommended limit of 12 milligrams per day, as stated by the ODS.
Lead to Copper Deficiency
Too much zinc in your diet can lead to a copper deficiency. Daily intakes of 60 milligrams of zinc can lead to a deficiency in your copper levels. Low copper levels can lead to anemia, a decrease in your body temperature, osteoporosis, low white blood cell count, irregular heartbeat and thyroid disorders. When supplementing with zinc, doctors recommend adding a copper supplement to prevent deficiencies, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
High intakes of zinc can cause symptoms immediately. One case report noted a severe vomiting and diarrhea within 30 minutes after taking 4 grams of zinc gluconate, which is 570 milligrams of elemental zinc, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Other acute symptoms of zinc intoxication include headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and abdominal cramps. The maximum upper limit of zinc intake for adults, listed by the ODS is 40 milligrams.
Zinc in Food
Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods will help ensure you get enough zinc in your diet, but not too much. Good food sources of zinc include oysters, beef shanks, crab legs, fortified breakfast cereals, cashews and baked beans, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.