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What is Zinc Good for?

Skin Conditions, Diets, Immune | December 22, 2016 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, Macular, acne

What is Zinc Good for?

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in many physiological processes. Zinc is involved in the activity of over 300 different enzymes, and is necessary for the normal function of the immune system, wound healing, and regulation of gene expression.

Severe zinc deficiency is characterised by stunted growth and development, chronic diarrhoea, loss of appetite, delayed wound healing, and impaired immune function. Immune

The Benefits of Zinc

The Benefits of ZincImmune function

Even mild zinc deficiency has been shown to affect immune function.

A study of 53 nursing home elderly demonstrated that zinc supplementation at a dose of 30 mg per day for 3 months was associated with an increase in the number of T-cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cells that play a key immune role. 

Common cold

Studies examining the effect of zinc lozenges on common cold symptoms in adults have reported mixed results. Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest that using zinc lozenges within 24 hours of onset of symptoms may result in significant reduction in the duration of colds. 

Wound healing

Zinc, both oral and topical, has been used for a long time for healing of ulcers and wounds due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and its ability to enhance tissue regeneration. 


Acne vulgaris is a common disorder affecting 90–95% of adolescents. Studies suggest that people with acne have low zinc levels. Patients with inflammatory acne who were treated with 30 mg of elemental zinc for 3 months (in the form of zinc gluconate) experienced a significant reduction in inflammation. 


Diarrhoea is a leading cause of death among children under five in developing countries. Zinc has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of diarrhoea. The World Health Organisation recommends oral zinc supplementation for treating children with acute diarrhoea.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of visual impairment and blindness among people 65 years or older. Zinc is found in high concentrations in the human retina. A large study investigated the effect of zinc on disease progression in patients with age-related macular degeneration and found that treatment with high-dose zinc reduced the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration

Food sources of zinc

Zinc can be found in a wide variety of foods. Oysters are the richest source of zinc, but other types of seafood (such as crab and lobster), as well as red meat, are high in zinc.

Other good sources of zinc include beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. However, zinc in plant foods is not absorbed as well as the zinc in animal foods as plant foods contain phytic acid, a compound that inhibits zinc absorption.

Zinc and Vegetarian Diets

It is suggested that, because of lower absorption of zinc from plant foods, those consuming vegetarian diets require as much as 50% more zinc than non-vegetarians.

Tip: In order to reduce the content of phytic acid in plant foods and to increase zinc bioavailability, soak your beans, grains, and seeds overnight before cooking them. Also, increase your zinc intake by consuming more leavened grain products, meaning whole-grain breads that contain baking yeast, because yeast reduces the level of phytic acid in foods; thus, the body absorbs more zinc from leavened grains than unleavened grains.
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Who Should Take Zinc?

It is now recognised that zinc deficiency is prevalent and is associated with a number of health problems. People at risk of zinc deficiency should consider increasing sources of zinc in their diets, as well as supplemental zinc.

Those at risk include:

  • People with severe diarrhoea
  • Malnourished individuals, including those with anorexia nervosa
  • People with Coeliac disease
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis 
  • Strict vegetarians
  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • Older infants who are exclusively breastfed
  • People with sickle cell anaemia
  • Alcoholics
  • Individuals with chronic renal disease
  • Children and adolescents
  • Premature and low-birth-weight infants
  • Older adults (65 years and older)

Which Form of Zinc Supplement Should I Take?

Which Form of Zinc Supplement Should I Take?There are many forms of zinc compounds in supplements, including zinc acetate, zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, zinc sulphate, zinc ascorbate, zinc chloride, zinc citrate, and zinc carbonate.

There is not enough evidence to determine the differences in absorption, bioavailability, or tolerability among the different forms of zinc.

However, one small study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, compared the bioavailability of three forms of zinc: zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, and zinc oxide. The study showed that the absorption of both zinc citrate and zinc gluconate was significantly higher than zinc oxide.

The type of zinc supplement you choose may remain a personal preference. Always read the label to determine the percentage of elemental zinc in your supplement, as it varies according to the form of zinc.

Contraindications and cautions 

Interaction with copper. Taking zinc in excess of 40 mg/day over a long period of time can result in copper deficiency. If you need to take zinc for a long period of time, it is recommended that you add copper, or take a formula that includes both zinc and copper.

Interaction with iron. Large amounts of supplemental iron (greater than 25 mg) might decrease zinc absorption. Take iron supplements between meals to help decrease its effect on zinc absorption.

Interaction with antibiotics. Zinc supplements may reduce the absorption of tetracycline and quinolone antibiotics. Thus, the antibiotic should be taken 2 hours or more before or at least 4-6 hours after the zinc supplement to avoid this. Consult with your pharmacist for other drug interactions with zinc.

Take with food. Do not take zinc on an empty stomach as it can result in nausea. It is always best to take it with an animal protein meal. Australia’s best online discount chemist


Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014, Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12, ABS, retrieved November 21, 2016,

Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. (2001). A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8. Archives of Ophthalmology (Chicago, Ill. : 1960), 119(10), 1417–36.

Barnett, J. B., Dao, M. C., Hamer, D. H., et al. (2016). Effect of zinc supplementation on serum zinc concentration and T cell proliferation in nursing home elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(3), 942–951.

Gupta, M., Mahajan, V. K., Mehta, K. S., & Chauhan, P. S. (2014). Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatology Research and Practice, 2014, 709152.

Hemilä, H. (2011). Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of colds: a systematic review. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, 5, 51–8.

Hunt, J. R. (2003). Bioavailability of iron, zinc, and other trace minerals from vegetarian diets. Am J Clin Nutr, 78, 633–9.

Meynadier, J. (2000). Efficacy and safety study of two zinc gluconate regimens in the treatment of inflammatory acne. European Journal of Dermatology : EJD, 10(4), 269–73.

National Institutes of Health 2016, Zinc - Health Professional Fact Sheet, NIH, retrieved December 14, 2016

Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute 2015, Zinc, Retrieved December 14, 2016,

Wegmüller, R., Tay, F., Zeder, C., et al. (2014). Zinc absorption by young adults from supplemental zinc citrate is comparable with that from zinc gluconate and higher than from zinc oxide. The Journal of Nutrition, 144(2), 132–6.

World Health Organisation 2016, Zinc supplementation in the management of diarrhoea, 2016, WHO, retrieved December 14, 2016 <>

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