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Zinc Part 3

Zinc/copper combination supplements may help slow hair loss and counter brittleness, particularly they are the result of an underactive thyroid gland. Actually, because long-term use of zinc inhibits copper absorption, it’s a very good idea to always take zinc and copper together. Most nutritionists recommend taking one milligram of copper for every 10 milligrams of zinc.

Although the body does not produce zinc on its own, this mineral is readily available in drinking water and certain foods. The best natural source of zinc is oysters (maybe there’s some truth to the old adage that oysters are an aphrodisiac after all?). Other good natural sources are lean meat, poultry, and organ meats.

Fruits have little or no zinc, and beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are not a good source of zinc either. This is because foods containing fiber also contain phytic acid, a substance that blocks zinc absorption. For this reason, vegetarians and people with high-fiber diets may have a zinc deficiency.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women, people over the age of 50, and those that abuse alcohol or drink a lot of coffee are also often slightly deficient in this mineral, and may want to consider supplementing as well.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include slowed growth in children, slow wound healing, frequent infections, brittle nails, hair loss, low sperm count, and diminished sense of taste and smell. Skin ailments such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis may also develop.

Low levels of zinc have also been linked to an increased risk for developing esophageal cancer. In February 2005, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published results of its study of 132 individuals from China, which showed that subjects with the highest zinc levels were 79 percent less likely to develop esophageal cancer than those in the lowest zinc levels.

The adult Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc is about 15 milligrams a day for adult men and women; slightly more for women that are pregnant or nursing. High-quality multivitamin and mineral supplements typically contain the RDA for zinc, but zinc supplements are also available in tablets, capsules, liquids, and lozenges.

However, only zinc gluconate, ascorbate, or glycinate will fight a cold, and the lozenges seem to be the most effective form for treating cold and flu symptoms—in one study, common colds disappeared about three days earlier in participants that used zinc lozenges as part of their treatment.

How much supplemental zinc should you take? Fifteen to thirty milligrams of zinc is, according to Jean Harper (author of Stop Aging Now), "enough to preserve immunune functioning as you age or to reverse deficiencies, revitalizing the thymus gland and restoring youthful immune activity". However, you shouldn't take more than 50 milligrams of zinc without a physician's recommendation (though elderly individuals may require this amount to promote thymus activity). Zinc in amounts greater than 200 mg a day can cause problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

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