Do we really need zinc and vitamin D? Doctor weighs in

Marane A. Plaza –

February 9, 2022 | 1:10pm

MANILA, Philippines — As we are facing new COVID-19 variants, it’s always a good idea to build and maintain habits that will help strengthen our immune system and overall health. By now, almost all of us might be educated on the importance of good nutrition, safety protocols, and of course, daily vitamins.

But how much do we really need zinc and vitamin D?

According to Clinical Nutrition Support Specialist Dr. Mercedita Macalintal, an expert from Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed), zinc and vitamin D are two essential nutrients our body needs to stay healthy and ward off diseases.

“Even mild to moderate degrees of zinc deficiency can impair immune function and make you susceptible to pneumonia and other diseases. Meanwhile, vitamin D or what we call the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is critical to bone health, as well as infection and inflammation control,” she explained in a statement sent to


Dr. Macalintal explains that zinc is responsible for the proper functioning of the immune system by removing harmful free radicals, repairing cells, and replicating them.

Zinc is also for the catalytic activity of more than 100 enzymes, synthesis of genetic materials, and maintenance of cell integration. It is also essential for one’s growth and development.

But here’s the catch: the body can’t produce nor store zinc.

“To prevent zinc deficiency and the problems that go with it, you need to supplement your body with it through the food that you take,” she maintained.

Lack of dietary diversity may make us more prone to zinc deficiency. Dr. Macalintal said those with zinc deficiency may experience poor immune system function, slow wound healing, diminished sense of taste and smell, appetite loss, diarrhea, and skin rashes around the nose, mouth, and anus.

Zinc deficiency is also associated with spontaneous abortion, congenital malformation, low birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation, and possible complications during labor and deliveries for pregnant women.

To get enough zinc, it’s a must to include food naturally rich in zinc. Dr. Macalintal lists down oysters, crabs, lobsters, pork, beans, nuts, whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice, dairy products and some green leafy vegetables as food that can help us consume adequate amounts of zinc.

The body’s zinc requirement depends on one’s age, she added. She noted that according to the latest Recommended Energy Intakes (RENI) by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), an adult woman will need 5 mg per day, while an adult male will require 7 mg a day.

Pregnant or lactating women, meanwhile, will need 12 milligrams. Children should take in at least 2 milligrams and up to 10 mg, depending on their age and gender.

Vitamin D

With most of us staying at home, Dr. Macalintal chronic that we could now be more prone to vitamin D deficiency, which may affect how our body fights acute respiratory infection and prevents illnesses like coronary heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

“Having adequate vitamin D can also help improve your mood, especially in these challenging times. Vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk of depression and may even affect cognitive function and brain health,” she added.

Several factors can lead to vitamin D deficiency like age (as older adults are less capable of producing Vitamin D as compared to young adult), skin pigmentation due to UV penetration on the skin, obesity, and patients suffering from certain forms of malabsorption disorders and too much use of blocking creams.

Some signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Frequent colds, flu, and other respiratory infections;
  • muscle, bone, and back pain;
  • skeletal deformities;
  • slow wound healing;
  • severe hair loss;
  • and irritability, especially in children because of bone pain, Dr. Macalintal pointed out.

“We get vitamin D from the food we eat. Our skin can produce vitamin D when we get our daily dose of sunlight. That’s why it’s also known as sunshine vitamin,” she said.

“If you can’t spend some healthy time under the sun, you can still increase the amounts of vitamin D in your body by eating fatty fish, egg yolks, cheese, and beef liver. Taking vitamin D supplements can also help.”

At a time when there’s a new virus that’s threatening our very health, we need to make every measure we can keep ourselves safe. And by keeping ourselves healthy such as beefing up our zinc and vitamin D levels, we also do our part in keeping our loved ones and the greater community safe.

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