The consumption of dietary supplements is becoming more and more familiar to us. It is common to find on supermarket shelves small boxes of Vitamin C, collagen or magnesium. However, all these supplements should not be consumed by self-diagnosis, as an excessive or unnecessary intake of them can be harmful. Therefore, in this article we are going to talk about 2 nutrients that we are sure to be familiar with: zinc and selenium. We will explain exactly what they are, how they affect our organism and when they should be taken.
Let’s get started!
First of all, zinc
Also spelled ‘zinc’, it is a nutrient found throughout our body. It is responsible for ‘giving a boost’ to our immune system, speeding up, for example, wound healing. It is also a powerful antioxidant. A zinc supplement can help reduce the duration of a cold if taken within 24 hours of the onset of cold symptoms.
Zinc is not stored in the body, so it has to be constantly replenished through food. A rich and varied diet should provide us with the necessary amount of zinc (in adult men it would be 11 mg/day and, in adult women, 8 mg/day) for our organism. Red meat, eggs, seafood and legumes are some of the foods that contain the most zinc.
There is also the possibility that an organism is not able to retain the necessary amount of this nutrient in its body. In this case we would be talking about a zinc deficiency. A controlled administration of this nutrient in cases of low zinc can help:
- Reduce the symptoms of diarrhea in children with low zinc levels.
- Delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The safest form of zinc administration is oral (with lozenges, for example), as intranasal intake can affect the sense of smell. In some cases it can even have permanent consequences. The maximum dose of zinc is 40 mg/day in adults.
What happens if there is an excessive intake of zinc?
As mentioned above, an excessive intake of any nutrient or vitamin can have repercussions. In the case of zinc, a high dose can generate a copper deficiency. This situation would be dangerous for a person with a deficiency of this mineral in the body, as it could lead to neurological problems.
What are the interactions of zinc?
The consumption of zinc supplements can ‘clash’ with the intake of some medications and affect the treatment or effectiveness of these. Some of them are:
- Antibiotics. Taking zinc supplements and antibiotics of the quinolone or tetracycline family at the same time may reduce their effectiveness in fighting bacteria. In this case the antibiotic could be taken in 2 ways: either 2 hours before taking the zinc supplement or 4/6 hours after that administration.
- Penicillamine. Taking zinc when taking penicillamine for rheumatoid arthritis may reduce the ability of this drug to reduce symptoms. In this case the protocol would be to take zinc at least two hours before penicillamine or after ingesting this drug.
- Thiazide diuretics. This type of diuretics, which are used to treat hypertension, increase the amount of zinc lost in the urine.
Like zinc, selenium is an essential nutrient for our body. It is a trace element that generates proteins. It is used by the body to prevent cell damage. It also produces thyroid hormones, which are involved in the production of sperm. It protects the body against infections and free radical damage and is a very important element for the liver and pancreas to function properly.
Selenium and zinc have some foods in common, such as seafood and eggs. Meats such as poultry, fish such as tuna and some dairy products also contain selenium. The amount of this nutrient in foods can vary. In the case of plant foods, selenium levels depend on the amount of the trace element present in the soil where they grow. In the case of those of animal origin, it depends on the selenium intake of the animals. A varied diet should contain enough selenium that the body needs (daily intake in adults is 55 mcg).
What happens if there is an excessive intake of selenium?
Excessive selenium intake can be detrimental to health. Some of the conditions that could be caused by ingesting more selenium than necessary are:
- Skin rashes
- Metallic taste in the mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Brittle nails
- Hair loss
- Skin rashes
- Discoloration of teeth
- Heart attacks
If any of these symptoms are observed, it is recommended to stop taking the dietary supplement and consult a physician.
What are the interactions of selenium?
As with zinc, some drugs may interact with selenium. Cisplatin, used in chemotherapy to treat cancer, can reduce the levels of this nutrient in the body. It is recommended, if you are undergoing any treatment, to consult a specialist to confirm if an intake of selenium supplements is compatible with the treatment in progress.
Some conclusions on zinc and selenium
As we have seen, an adequate intake of zinc and selenium is essential for the correct functioning of the organism. If there are cases of deficiency of either of these nutrients, a dietary supplement could help the body to reach the levels that the body needs for all its elements to function properly. However, an excessive consumption can also have negative consequences, so it is advisable to consult a specialist to analyze whether an extra dose of zinc or selenium is necessary.
At Ambar Lab we work so that our wide and growing catalog of tests fits you, because we know that knowledge is the key that facilitates the work of our customers. If you have any questions you can contact us. You can also enter our blogto know all the news in the medical field.