The Role of Zinc in the Human Body

The role of Zinc is important as it's essential for various metabolic processes. Continue reading to find out more about it.
The Role of Zinc in the Human Body
Florencia Villafañe

Written and verified by the nutritionist Florencia Villafañe.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Are you aware of the role of zinc in your body? This mineral is essential and extremely important to your health, and you must include adequate amounts in your diet.

This nutrient has a specific role in more than 300 enzymes because it participates in all biochemical reactions in the human body. Thus, zinc values ​​have a direct effect on your growth, development, neurological behavior, and immune system.

What’s the role of zinc in the human body?

Both zinc, copper, and selenium are involved in processes that are necessary for the development of life. In fact, this element is present in all body organs, tissues, fluids, and secretions.

Its catalytic functions increase the speed of chemical reactions and fulfill structural and regulatory roles. According to El Zinc: Oligoelemento Esencial, this mineral has a modulating effect on neuronal communication.

It also maintains the integrity of the cell membranes and the balance of tissues. Particularly, it’s a constituent of the bone matrix helping the formation of new osteoblasts.

This mineral has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties and prevents cell damage. Also, it’s a regulatory agent in different mediators of immunity, as it intervenes in the activation, growth, and functioning of immune cells. Therefore, it promotes wound healing.

In addition, it regulates blood pressure in the cardiovascular system. It’s for this reason that it impacts cardiorespiratory function and promotes strength in healthy people and athletes. Supplementation with zinc also has positive effects on training in all of these cases.

Zinc also enhances your sense of taste, which in turn stimulates your appetite. Supplementation with it also promotes weight gain and improves symptoms of anxiety and depression. As if that wasn’t enough,  it aids in the recovery of patients suffering from anorexia nervosa.

An array of zinc containing food.
The functions of zinc in the body are many and range from regulating taste to maintaining blood pressure.

Find out about the Seven Types of Food High in Zinc and Their Benefits

How much zinc do you need?

In general, 83% of the zinc we have in the body is in the cells that make up the muscles and bones. There’s no way to compensate for dietary deficiencies because there’s no specific place to store this nutrient.

In fact, according to various studies, the daily amount of zinc a person needs depends on their age. This value is between 8 and 11 milligrams a day for women and men respectively, in the case of adults. Likewise, there are stages such as pregnancy and lactation in which the needs increase to 13 milligrams per day.

Additionally, bottle-fed infants have a higher requirement, due to the lower bioavailability of this mineral in infant milk formulas.

Dietary sources of zinc

Fortunately, this nutrient is widely distributed in different foods, but its content varies just like with other elements. The main dietary sources of zinc are:

  • Products of marine origin, especially shellfish (oysters and crustaceans)
  • Meats, particularly organs and muscles of cattle, pigs, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy products and eggs
  • Plant-based foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds

This mineral is bound to proteins and nucleic acids so its bioavailability will be conditioned to it. Thus, zinc from plants is less absorbed, due to the presence of phytic acid — a substance that forms insoluble complexes that hinder its intestinal absorption.

Learn about and Discover the Properties and Benefits of Zinc

What happens if you don’t get enough zinc?

A zinc deficiency is rare given this nutrient is present in many dietary sources. However, it doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In fact, according to data from the National Institute of Health, its deficit causes alterations in all those reactions in which it intervenes. Thus, it can impact:

  • The development rate of babies and children
  • The proper sexual development in adolescents and delay it, as well as lead to male impotence
  • Hair loss, eye, and skin injuries
  • Appetite and lead to diarrhea, and weight loss
  • Sense of taste and concentration levels
  • The immune function
A notebook about the function of zinc.
You can obtain zinc from most food and its deficiency, although rare, leads to various kinds of disorders.

Things to keep in mind with regard to the role of zinc

As you can see, this mineral has various actions in the body and its intake must be adequate at all stages of life. Thus, consult a nutrition professional so they can help you meet your daily requirements.

Finally, the range of processes that depend on zinc levels is wide and range from improving your sense of taste to the activity of your immune system. A well-balanced diet should be enough to meet your daily requirements.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • López de Romaña, D., Castillo, C., & Diazgranados, D. (2010). El zinc en la salud humana-1. Revista chilena de nutrición37(2), 234-239.
  • Rubio, C., González Weller, D., Martín-Izquierdo, R. E., Revert, C., Rodríguez, I., & Hardisson, A. (2007). El zinc: oligoelemento esencial. Nutrición Hospitalaria22(1), 101-107.
  • Datos sobre el zinc. National Institute of Heatlh. Disponible en
  • Torres Acosta, R., & Bahr Valcarcel, P. (2004). El zinc: la chispa de la vida. Revista cubana de pediatría76(4), 0-0.
  • de Burguera, Oscar Alarcón Marcela, et al. “Valoración de niveles séricos y óseos de calcio, cobre, estroncio, hierro, magnesio y zinc en pacientes con osteoporosis.” Vitae: Academia Biomédica Digital 23 (2005): 5.
  • Llavero-Valero, M., and M. Currás Freixes. “Protocolo diagnóstico y terapéutico de las alteraciones del magnesio y el zinc.” Medicine-Programa de Formación Médica Continuada Acreditado 13.14 (2020): 816-818.
  • Jiménez, Rafael, Mayder Martínez, and Ronoel Peñalver. “Efecto del zinc sobre el crecimiento y desarrollo del niño con bajo peso al nacer.” Colomb Med 38.1 (2007): 6-13.
  • King, Janet C., David M. Shames, and Leslie R. Woodhouse. “Zinc homeostasis in humans.” The Journal of nutrition 130.5 (2000): 1360S-1366S.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.