Too Much Zinc in Your Diet ---Symptoms
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Last updated October 28, 2017, originally published September 25, 2014
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist

Everyone needs a bit of zinc in their diet. Zinc is a trace mineral,
present in every cell in the human body, and over 300 of the enzymes
in our bodies need zinc to function. However, we only need a small
amount of zinc. Overdoing it with the metal is dangerous – too much
zinc in your diet can cause toxicity. But how much is too much? What
are the signs that you have too much zinc? And which foods are
highest in zinc?

What Does Zinc Do?

First, the good news. Zinc plays an important part in your immune
function and in wound healing. Zinc helps protein synthesis, DNA
synthesis, and cell division. Zinc is also an important element that helps
promote normal growth throughout pregnancy and childhood.

Zinc is also one of the minerals essential for maintaining healthy hair
growth. In fact, zinc is often recommended for people suffering from
diffuse hair loss.

We need zinc for an accurate sense of taste and smell. In order to get
enough zinc we need to consume it every day, because there is no
storage system in our bodies. But watch out – too much zinc can
cause health problems, not prevent them.

What are the Symptoms of Zinc Toxicity?

Too much zinc can result in zinc toxicity, which can be either acute or

High zinc intake causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
loss of appetite,
headaches, and abdominal cramps, according to 1990 research from
Penn State University. In one example, a 17-year-old man consumed 85
zinc tablets used to treat the common cold (4g of zinc) and experienced
severe nausea and vomiting within 30 minutes of the dose (1998
report from St. Anthony Family Medicine Residency, Denver, Colorado.)

What Health Problems Does Too Much Zinc Cause?

Much less zinc than this causes problems. Between 150 and 450mg of
zinc a day may result in copper deficiency anemia.

According to a 2000 study from John L. McClellan Memorial Veterans
Hospital, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, a man with "metal
pica" – the desire to eat metal – acquired copper deficiency anemia
after eating pennies when the zinc leached from the coins.

You don’t have to eat money to acquire this deficiency – too much zinc
from food sources can also be a problem. Copper deficiency due to
excess zinc in the diet causes reduced levels of HDL (“good”)
cholesterol, increased levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and abnormal
cardiac function, according to a 1995 study by University of Texas
Medical Branch, Galveston.

Long-term use of zinc supplementation at 80mg per day for over six
years resulted in a significant increase in hospitalization for
genitourinary causes, according to a 2007 report from the University of
Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

For men, there is a special risk that zinc toxicity carries ---prostate
cancer. There is some evidence that long-term use of zinc supplements
results in an increased risk of prostate cancer in men - men who
consumed more than 100 mg supplemental zinc per day had a relative
risk of advanced prostate cancer of 2.29, according to a 2003 study by
the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health.

How Much is Too Much Zinc?

The National Institutes of Health says that the recommendations for
daily intake of zinc (DV) are 2mg for infants up to six months, 3mg for
children up to three years old, 5mg between the ages of 4 and 8, 8mg
for children aged between 9 and 13, and 11mg over the age of 14.

Pregnant women aged over 19 years should get 11mg (under 18s need
13mg) and nursing women need 12mg.  

There is a set of Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for zinc – if your
zinc intake is above these levels for a long period of time then you raise
your risk of suffering health problems. For adults, the UL for zinc is
40mg per day.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the following food
sources are the highest in zinc:

1. Oysters

The famous aphrodisiacs contain more than the promise of romance – 3
ounces of oysters contains 74mg of zinc, which is 493 percent of the
DV (Daily Value). Little wonder that oyster have long been associated
with romance --- studies show that the
zinc increases testosterone.

Oysters are so rich in zinc that a 3 ounce serving will provide almost
double the recommended upper limit of 40 mg of zinc anyone should
eat daily.

2. Beef

Beef chuck roast (3 ounces) contains 7mg of zinc (47 percent of the
DV). A 3-ounce beef patty has 5.3mg of zinc (35 percent of the DV).

3. Crab

Three ounces of Alaska king crab contains 6.5mg of zinc, which is 43
percent of the DV.

4. Breakfast Cereal

Another good source of zinc in the diet is from fortified breakfast
cereals. A cereal that has 25 percent added zinc provides 3.8mg of the
nutrient, which is 25 percent of the DV.

5. Lobster

Cooked lobster (3 ounces) has 3.4mg of zinc – 23 percent of the DV.
The National Institutes of Health says that any food providing 20
percent or more of the DV is a high source of zinc.

6. Pork

A pork loin chop weighing 3 ounces has 2.9mg of zinc, 19 percent of
the DV.

7. Baked Beans

Somewhat surprisingly, canned baked beans are relatively high in zinc.
Half a cup provides 2.9mg.

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Lobsters are rich zinc, as is fortified breakfast cereal
and baked beans.

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