What is Zinc
Zinc, which is a type of metal, is actually an important trace mineral that people need to stay healthy. Without zinc, there is no life. This element is second only to iron in its concentration in the body.
Essential to human growth, Zinc is key to proper T-lymphocytes or T cell (a type of white blood cell that fights off foreign invaders in your bloodstream) activity. Zinc also plays a major role in activating growth and development of bones and major organs, enabling brain functions, including memory, sensory messaging and cognition to function. (1) Other than that it is also responsible for maintaining normal immune system, wound healing, blood clotting, thyroid function, senses of taste and smell. (2) Zinc also helps the cells in your body communicate by functioning as a neurotransmitter. (3)
Zinc in Pregnancy
Do you know that what you eat while you’re pregnant and breastfeeding is very important? This is where your baby will get the nutrients that go on to make up absolutely everything about them – from their bones to their immune system and even their metabolism. (4)
Zinc is one of these building blocks – and getting the right amount of it while pregnant is essential for growing a healthy baby. A good prenatal vitamin will have zinc in it.
- Important for normal brain function, which contributes to all future learning and development of your baby.
- Building a robust immune system by maintaining a healthy amount of antibodies. (5)
- Extra immune support for mother and baby during this vulnerable period
- Lower the risk of premature birth. (5)
How much Zinc is enough in pregnancy?
Pregnant women age 18 and younger: 12 milligrams (mg) per day
Pregnant women age 19 and older: 11 mg per day
Breastfeeding age 18 and younger: 13 mg per day
Breastfeeding women age 19 and older: 12 mg per day
Nonpregnant women ages 19 and older: 8 mg per day (6)
Food sources of Zinc
Oysters are actually the richest food source of zinc – just two can provide more than the recommended amount for the whole day – but it is not advisable for pregnant woman to eat raw oysters for fear of food-borne diseases. Moreover depending on where the oyster is harvested, it can contain high amount of mercury.
Can you get too much zinc?
Yes. Too much zinc can cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. In fact, the National Academy of Sciences, the group that sets the recommended daily amounts for the government, suggests that adults should get no more than 40 mg of zinc a day from all sources. (Women 18 and younger should get no more than 34 mg). (6) Taking high dose of zinc for long period may disrupt the absorption of copper and iron.
The signs of a zinc deficiency
Zinc deficiencies in pregnant women have been linked to low birth weight, toxemia and miscarriage. (4)
Other common symptoms of zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, impaired senses of smell and taste, growth retardation, delayed wound healing, depression, impaired concentration, nervousness, night blindness, and slowed nail and hair growth. (7)
1. International Zinc Association http://www.zinc.org/health/
2. Zinc https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/zinc
3. The 10 Best Foods High in Zinc https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/zinc.php
4. The role of zinc in your pregnancy and how to get it http://www.kidspot.com.au/health/early-life-nutrition/pregnancy-nutrition/the-role-of-zinc-in-your-pregnancy-and-how-to-get-it
5. Zinc in pregnancy https://www.aptaclub.co.uk/article/pregnancy-vitamins-zinc
6. Zinc in your pregnancy diet https://www.babycenter.com/0_zinc-in-your-pregnancy-diet_673.bc
7. ZINC: THE IMMUNE SYSTEM NUTRIENT http://www.dummies.com/health/nutrition/zinc-the-immune-system-nutrient/
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research