Many of us average consumers are a little confused on the whole vitamin supplement issue, and it doesn't get any better when the words nutrient, and mineral come up. There are lots of options and products on the market but very little information.
You may have been told that your body needs zinc, and that you can use zinc to fight off colds or reduce the length of colds, but you may not really know what it is. Is zinc a vitamin? Is it a mineral? If so, does that mean it's a metal? Then you can get really confused, because you may have heard that metals can be poisonous to humans, as can be the case with lead poisoning.
Zinc is a mineral, one of many that your body needs to maintain and carry its processes. The human body uses vitamins, such as vitamin A, C, and D and minerals, such as Zinc, Selenium and Copper, in combination. The body usually has only trace amounts of minerals. It is thought that three thousand proteins in the human body contain Zinc. You should be careful of taking too much of a mineral because you can overdose and cause poisoning as would be the case with Copper.
Zinc is also a metal. It's listed on the periodic table with the symbol Zn. Zinc is present throughout our environment in small amounts. Plants store it in a slightly harder to absorb form than it is found in meat and as such vegetarians may find it necessary to take a zinc supplement. You can find Zinc naturally in meat, oysters, beans, whole grains and pumpkin seeds, amongst other foods. Its used in our metals industry and is listed as the fourth most common metal in use today. Zinc is presently used in steel to prevent corrosion and rust. On a side note it is the primary metal in making American pennies. You may have entered a dare as a child that involved the swallowing of a penny. Probably wasn't a good idea. Zinc is highly soluble in stomach acid and as much Zinc is present in a penny will damage the lining of your stomach.
Zinc is a nutrient. A nutrient is an element or compound necessary in carrying on an organisms functions and growth. Its one of the six types of nutrients and is considered essential because your body cannot make Zinc. It must be obtained from an outside source.
It is not a vitamin, but you will find that many multi vitamin supplements also contain minerals. It just makes it easier for the companies to call the product vitamin supplement' and its also easier for the costumer to take one pill with both vitamins and minerals in it. Vitamins are organic compounds and minerals are elements on the periodic table.
Hopefully you have a clearer view of Zinc as a mineral, metal, essential nutrient and not a vitamin. The world of preventative health care and dietary maintenance can be a confusing one. Now if you can just figure out how to set the clock on the microwave.