Zinc is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and plays an essential role in growth and development, wound healing and immune function, as well as over 300 enzyme reactions important for gene expression, cellular communication and division.
Zinc is also necessary for normal neurological function, with high concentrations found within the area of the brain responsible for processing memory, the hippocampus, as well as being directly involved in the growth and connection of nerves, processes essential to learning and adaptation. Zinc is also required for neurotransmitter synthesis and so is vital for memory, learning and mood regulation.
Zinc is found in very high levels in seafood, particularly shellfish, as well as animal proteins, eggs and legumes and is absorbed quite well from these sources. Despite relative abundance of the nutrient in the diet, many people still fall short of the recommended intakes 8mg and 15mg for women and men respectively. A full-blown deficiency is relatively uncommon but may be seen in athletes, vegetarians/vegans, and those who sweat a lot. Those who do not consume animal products regularly, or who consume high amounts of phytate, such as people who consume lots of grains, may also be at risk from low zinc levels. Zinc can also compete with magnesium and calcium for absorption, so it is best not to consume meals rich in all three nutrients. Too much zinc (2g or more daily) can cause nausea and vomiting as well as fever.
When it comes to choosing a zinc supplement there are numerous forms available, with Zinc methionine generally considered to offer superior bioavailability, antioxidant and immune-enhancing properties compared to other forms of zinc.