Zinc Toxicity

Toxicity of zinc from food sources has not been reported and seems unlikely since absorption is homeostatically regulated. Acute gastrointestinal symptoms and headaches have been reported after ingestion of amounts about 10-20-fold higher than the recommended intakes. Chronic ingestion of these large amounts has been shown to impair immune response and lipoprotein metabolism. However, the key danger of excessive zinc intake is reduced copper status. This is probably due to a zinc-induced blockage of copper absorption and in fact is clinically useful in individuals with Wilson's disease, a condition of copper toxicity. In the USA, an upper limit of 40mgday-1 has been set for adults, because of the threat to copper status. The popularity of zinc lozenges for treatment of the common cold could lead to this intake being exceeded. Thus, the use of these treatments should be of limited duration.

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