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Zinc Overload
Mar 8, 2002

A reader recently said that he heard one should not take more than 15mg of zinc and you didn't comment. How much is too much?

Response from Ms. Fields-Gardner

Zinc status is a complex diagnosis in HIV infection because serum levels will "look" low during an infection while there is no real zinc deficiency. By supplementing zinc in an attempt to bring up the blood level, you can end up with an overload. Zinc is important to maintain hormone balances and functions, other metabolism, and even appetite and taste. While adequate zinc is essential to immune function, an overload of zinc can be immunosuppressive among other toxic effects.

It is purely a guess at this point about how much is too much, especially considering that an individual's needs may vary according to level of infection or other problems. I can tell you that one study suggested that high levels of zinc intake from food and food/supplementation are associated with a quicker progression to AIDS and a larger number of people included in this analysis survived AIDS-free with zinc intakes at less than or equal to 14.1 mg/day.

This makes the task even more tedious from the patient point of view because to know what you are doing now with zinc intake in your food is an important baseline. To find out, you can list out foods that you consume over a period of time and have it evaluated by your dietitian.

Zinc is highest in foods such as oysters (74 mg zinc/cup), beef (~5 mg/3 ounce serving), shrimp (~3 mg/3ounce serving), lamb (~4 mg/3 ounce serving), and legumes (black-eyed peas, pinto, and kidney beans in particular at 2-3 mg/1 cup cooked). So, an 8 ounce serving (actually that is 2 1/2 servings on food group lists) of sirloin steak provides nearly 14 mg of zinc.


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