Zinc interactions with other nutrients

Interaction with copper

Zinc and copper have related roles in many body functions and the balance between the two nutrients is important. Copper and zinc function together in the antioxidant enzyme copper-zinc superoxide dismutase. High zinc intakes decrease the absorption of copper, and high blood copper content can depress zinc absorption from the intestine.

The ratio of zinc to copper appears to affect the levels of lipoproteins (fat carrying proteins) in the blood. Optimal zinc intake reduces total and harmful LDL cholesterol and raises beneficial HDL cholesterol levels. However, high levels of zinc (160 mg) have been shown to lower HDL cholesterol levels in blood, raise total and LDL cholesterol, induce platelet aggregation and lead to atherosclerosis in animals. These effects may be due to the lowering of copper levels. An imbalance in zinc and copper may also be involved in high blood pressure.

Some research suggests that elevated serum copper and depressed plasma zinc levels are associated with violent tendencies in young men. Based on interviews with patients and their families and reference to a standard behavior scale, researchers identified 135 young men with a history of assault and 18 men with no history of such behavior. They analyzed blood samples and found a higher copper-to-zinc ration in the young men with a history of violence. The researchers speculate that low levels of zinc in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus may somehow alter nerve activity, thus affecting behavior.

Zinc interactionsZinc interaction with iron

High iron intake can reduce zinc levels and high zinc intake can reduce iron absorption and encourage iron depletion from body stores.

Zinc interaction with folic acid

A zinc-dependent enzyme is necessary for the metabolism of folic acid. Folic acid may reduce zinc absorption when the dietary zinc intake is low but not when it is high.

Zinc interactions with other nutrients

High calcium intakes may reduce zinc absorption. In a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers gave 19 healthy postmenopausal women diets which included 890 mg calcium and for some of the study, supplements containing 468 mg calcium. They found that zinc absorption was reduced by 2 mg during the high calcium periods. In another part of the study, calcium supplements were given to ten men and women with a single meal. Zinc absorption was reduced by 50 per cent.

In another study published in 1997, researchers at Ohio State University assessed the effect of 1000 mg calcium supplements on zinc utilization in adolescent girls. They did not find any adverse effects. Zinc supplements may be useful for postmenopausal women who are taking calcium supplements.

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