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Is Zinc Good For Weight Loss?

There are many supplements that supposedly help you lose weight. What about the essential mineral zinc, does it play a role in weight loss?

The relationship between vitamins and minerals and weight loss is often interesting. If there is any relationship, weight loss usually comes from resolving an insufficiency or avoiding an excess intake of the vitamin or mineral.

This is the case with zinc. Resolving a zinc insufficiency may benefit weight loss but more zinc will not always lead to weight loss.

Zinc insufficiencies are not that common but they do happen. So even if it is just for the health benefits you may want to make sure you are consuming enough zinc.

If you think you think your levels of zinc may be insufficient you can get your levels measured to see if you should actively work on increasing your zinc intake. Keep in mind that too much zinc can cause serious negative side effects so it’s smart to talk to your doctor before heavily supplementing with zinc.

How zinc may help you lose weight

Vitamins and minerals play important roles in all kinds of processes inside of your body. If you don’t consume enough of these vitamins and minerals many of these processes take place in lesser or even zero amounts. This is usually bad for your health.

The opposite is also sometimes the case. Consuming too much of certain vitamins and minerals can cause negative side effects too.

Zinc in particular has a downstream effect on many enzymes, including ones that are involved in your metabolism (1). Zinc is also important for building and preserving muscle (2, 3). Muscle mass in turn helps with burning more calories.

Having low levels of zinc can also negatively affect your thyroid function (4). Resolving a zinc insufficiency can benefit your thyroid. A healthy thyroid in turn plays an important role in your metabolism, how many calories you burn (5).

One study with 40 obese individuals found that supplementation with zinc resulted in more weight loss than supplementation with a placebo on a restricted-calorie diet over 15 weeks (6).

In short, you want your zinc levels to be at the right level. If this is already the case consuming more zinc will likely not lead to weight loss. If your zinc levels are low, consuming more zinc may help with weight loss.

Zinc insufficiencies are not that common but they do happen so you may want to make sure you are consuming enough zinc.

It is hard to put resolving a zinc insufficiency into a certain number of extra calories burned. For most people this will not be the lifestyle change that instantly gets them to their dream weight. However, together with the health benefits, making sure that your zinc intake is sufficient may be worth it.

Zinc daily recommendations

Below you can find a table with the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for zinc for adults, infants, and children (3).

Obviously, not all people have the same bodyweight, body composition, and activity levels. Hopefully one day there will be more specific dosage recommendations available. For now, these are some general intake numbers you can aim at.

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
0-6 months2 mg*2 mg*
7-12 months3 mg3 mg
1-3 years3 mg3 mg
4-8 years5 mg5 mg
9-13 years8 mg8 mg
14-18 years11 mg9 mg12 mg13 mg
19+ years11 mg8 mg11 mg12 mg
recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for zinc | *Adequate Intake (AI)

As a first food example, cashews contain about 5.8 mg zinc per 100 grams (7).

People at risk of zinc inadequacy

Some groups of people are more at risk of an zinc inadequacy than others. Examples include (3):

  • People with gastrointestinal and other diseases
  • Vegetarians
  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • Older infants who are exclusively breastfed
  • People with sickle cell disease
  • Alcoholics

If you are in one of these groups you may need to pay more attention to get an adequate zinc intake.

Other people may want to talk to their doctors and get their blood levels checked first before heavily supplementing with zinc to see if there is any need for it.

Zinc deficiency symptoms

Zinc deficiencies and inadequacies are not that common but they are possible. There are some symptoms that are associated with a zinc deficiency. Experiencing these on a regular basis may be a sign that your zinc levels are not optimal.

Some zinc deficiency symptoms include (3):

  • Growth retardation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Impaired immune function
  • Hair loss

Avoiding these zinc deficiency symptoms alone may be reason enough to ensure that you are getting enough of this mineral.

Many of these symptoms also show up with other health conditions. That means you want to measure your zinc levels to be certain that this is causing the symptoms.

Ways to get enough zinc

In many cases it is luckily not that hard to increase your zinc levels. This can be done both naturally with whole foods and supplementing.

Whole foods

Eating whole foods with zinc in them is usually the most recommended way to increase your intake. The reason for this is the wide variety of additional nutrients you get.

Some examples of foods with relatively high amounts of zinc include:

  • Oyster (cooked): about 45.1 mg per 100 grams (8)
  • Pumpkin seeds (roasted): about 7.4 mg per 100 grams (9)
  • Ground beef (cooked): about 6.1 mg per 100 grams (10)
  • Cashews: about 5.8 mg per 100 grams (7)
  • Swiss cheese: about 4.4 mg per 100 grams (11)
  • Chickpeas (cooked): about 1.5 mg per 100 grams (12)

When you know what foods to focus on it becomes a lot easier to reach your daily recommended intake for zinc. Besides these examples, you can find amounts of zinc in a wide variety of foods.

Dietary supplements

The next option to increase your zinc intake is by taking dietary supplements. These are pills, capsules, tablets, or liquids with concentrated quantities of zinc.

While supplementing zinc can be helpful in certain situations too much zinc can also cause negative side effects. That’s why it may be smart to talk to your doctor before heavily supplementing. At least keep a close eye on the dosage of the supplements and how much zinc is already in your diet.

Can you consume too much zinc?

One thing you do have to keep in mind is that you can also consume too much of certain vitamins and minerals. This is called the tolerable upper intake level, the highest level of nutrient intake that is likely to pose no risk of adverse health effects for almost all individuals in the general population (13).

There are tolerable upper intake levels established for zinc. This means that having too much zinc can cause adverse health effects. These are currently the tolerable upper intake levels established for zinc (3):

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
0-6 months4 mg4 mg
7-12 months5 mg5 mg
1-3 years7 mg7 mg
4-8 years12 mg12 mg
9-13 years23 mg23 mg
14-18 years34 mg34 mg34 mg34 mg
19+ years40 mg40 mg40 mg40 mg
Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for zinc

When supplementing you certainly want to keep these in mind since overdoing it with zinc can have serious side effects. It’s smart to talk to your doctor before heavily supplementing with zinc.

Conclusion

Implementing more zinc into your diet or supplementing may help with losing weight if your zinc levels are currently too low. If your zinc levels are already normal, adding more zinc will likely not cause weight loss.

Zinc insufficiencies are not that common but they do happen. So even if it is just for the health benefits you may want to make sure you are consuming enough zinc.

Because there are tolerable upper intake levels you also don’t want to consume too much zinc. This can cause serious negative side effects. Before drastically increasing your zinc intake it may be smart to talk to your doctor first.

Exactly how many extra calories you will burn by resolving a zinc insufficiency is not clear. This will likely not be the thing that gets you to your dream weight. Even so, together with the other health benefits making sure that your zinc intake is sufficient may be worth it.