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ZINC

HEALTH BENEFITS

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WHY DO WE NEED ZINC?

Zinc is a micronutrient, vital to our overall health and well-being. It supports immune function and wound healing, and promotes growth, cognitive function and metabolic health. Adequate intake of zinc through dietary sources or supplementation is essential for good health and reduces the risk of deficiency-related complications.


1. Immune Function

Research suggests zinc level protects us from infection and illness, through strengthening our immune system. Zinc assists various aspects of immune function, including the development and function of immune cells, such as T cells and natural killer cells. It acts as a cofactor for numerous enzymes involved in immune responses, facilitating processes like DNA synthesis and cell division.

 

2. Wound Healing

Studies have shown Zinc enhances wound health, speeding up recovery and reducing the risk of complications. Zinc helps maintain the integrity of skin and mucosal membranes, promoting their barrier function and reducing risk of infection. Additionally, zinc aids the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein essential for tissue repair.

 

3. Growth and Development

Zinc is involved in numerous cellular processes, promoting growth and development, particularly during infancy, childhood and adolescence. It supports reproductive health and fetal development during pregnancy; and influences cell division, protein synthesis, and hormone regulation.

 

4. Cognitive Function

Emerging evidence suggests zinc plays a role in cognitive function and brain health. Zinc is abundant in the brain, acting as a neurotransmitter and modulating synaptic activity. It’s involved in processes such as neuronal signalling, synaptic plasticity, and neurogenesis. Some studies have linked zinc deficiency to cognitive impairments, while others have explored the potential therapeutic effects of zinc supplementation in conditions like Alzheimer's disease and depression.

 

5. Antioxidant Activity

With zinc’s antioxidant properties, it helps to neutralise harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is implicated in various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disorders. By scavenging free radicals and supporting the body's antioxidant defence mechanisms, zinc may help reduce the risk of oxidative damage and associated health conditions.

 

6. Hormone Regulation

Zinc is key in hormone regulation, influencing the synthesis, secretion, and activity of numerous hormones in the body. It is particularly important for the function of the endocrine system, which controls processes such as metabolism, growth, and reproduction. Zinc deficiency can disrupt hormone balance, leading to issues such as impaired growth, menstrual irregularities, and fertility problems.

 

7. Metabolic Health

Adequate zinc intake is associated with a reduced risk of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity. Zinc influences carbohydrate metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism. It plays a role in the synthesis, storage, and release of insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels. Additionally, zinc helps maintain the integrity of cell membranes and may influence the expression of genes involved in lipid metabolism.

 

8. Vision

Zinc is essential for maintaining eye health and supporting vision. Zinc supplementation may have protective effects against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of vision loss in older adults. Zinc is highly concentrated in the retina, where it plays a role in visual signalling and neurotransmission. Zinc deficiency has been linked to vision problems such as night blindness and poor dark adaptation.

 

9. Skin Health

Zinc contributes to skin health and may play a role in the management of various dermatological conditions. It helps regulate sebum production, reducing the risk of acne and other skin disorders. Zinc also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate symptoms associated with conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Topical zinc preparations are commonly used in skincare products for their healing and soothing effects on the skin.

 

10. Mood and Mental Health

Some research suggests that zinc may influence mood and mental health, and that deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Conversely, zinc supplementation has been investigated as a potential adjunctive therapy for improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression.

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HOW DO I GET ENOUGH ZINC?

 

Food Sources of Zinc:

Including a variety of foods in your diet can help ensure an adequate intake of zinc. However, it's worth noting that certain factors such as soil quality, food processing methods, and individual dietary habits can affect zinc absorption. 

 

Foods rich in zinc include:

 

1. Shellfish:

Oysters are particularly high in zinc, with some varieties containing up to 7 times the daily recommended intake in just a single serving. Other shellfish like crab, lobster, and mussels are also good sources.

 

2. Meat:

Beef, pork, and lamb are rich in zinc. Lean cuts of meat tend to have higher zinc content.

3. Poultry:

Chicken and turkey are good sources of zinc, particularly in the dark meat.

4. Fish:

Various types of fish, including salmon, trout, and sardines, contain significant amounts of zinc.

 

5. Dairy products:

Dairy foods like cheese and milk contain moderate amounts of zinc.

6. Legumes:

Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are good plant-based sources of zinc.

7. Nuts and seeds:

Pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas), cashews, almonds, and peanuts are good sources of zinc.

Whole grains:

Whole grains like wheat, rice, and quinoa contain zinc, although the bioavailability of zinc from plant sources may be lower due to the presence of phytates which can inhibit absorption.

Fortified foods:

Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast, and other fortified foods may contain added zinc.

 

Zinc Supplements:

Zinc supplements are available in various forms, each with its own set of advantages and considerations. It's important to consider bioavailability, dosage, and potential side effects. Consult with a healthcare professional to help determine the most appropriate form and dosage of zinc supplementation for your individual health needs. Here is a list of some common forms of zinc supplements:

 

1. Zinc Gluconate:

Commonly used in over-the-counter supplements and generally well-absorbed by the body. It’s often found in lozenges or chewable tablets, making it convenient for those who have difficulty swallowing pills. Zinc gluconate is gentle on the stomach and less likely to cause gastrointestinal upset compared to other forms.

 

​2. Zinc Sulfate:

Another common form of zinc supplement, often found in multivitamin formulations or as a standalone supplement. While it provides a good source of elemental zinc, it may cause stomach irritation or nausea in some individuals, especially when taken on an empty stomach.

3. Zinc Picolinate:

Created by combining zinc with picolinic acid, this form of zinc is well-absorbed by the body and may be more bioavailable compared to other forms of zinc. It is often recommended for individuals with zinc deficiency or those who require higher doses of zinc supplementation.

 

4. Zinc Acetate:

Also commonly used in supplements, this form of zince is easily absorbed by the body and is often used in lozenges or throat sprays for immune support. Like zinc gluconate, zinc acetate is gentle on the stomach and is less likely to cause gastrointestinal side effects.

5. Zinc Orotate:

A combination of zinc and orotic acid, this form of zinc is believed to have better bioavailability compared to others, allowing for greater absorption into the body's cells. Zinc orotate is often used in supplements aimed at supporting overall health and well-being.

 

6. Zinc Citrate:

Created by combining zinc with citric acid, this form of zinc is highly bioavailable and well-tolerated by most individuals. Zinc citrate is often used in supplements targeting immune support, skin health, and overall wellness.

 

7. Zinc L-methionine: A combination of zinc and the amino acid L-methionine, this form of zinc is highly absorbable and may offer unique benefits, such as supporting protein synthesis and antioxidant activity. Zinc L-methionine is often used in supplements targeting athletic performance, muscle recovery, and overall health.

 

8. Zinc Oxide: Commonly used in topical preparations, such as ointments, creams, and sunscreens, this form of zinc is highly effective when applied directly to the skin for wound healing, sun protection, and soothing irritation. However, zinc oxide is not as well-absorbed when taken orally compared to other forms of zinc.

Are there any side effects from zinc?

For most adults, the RDA (recommended daily allowance) for zinc is 11 milligrams for males and 8 milligrams for females. Higher amounts of zinc may be needed when pregnant or breastfeeding. Individuals considering zinc supplementation should be cautious not to exceed the recommended intake levels unless directed by a healthcare professional.

If you experience any adverse effects from zinc supplementation, it's important to discontinue use and consult with a healthcare provider. They can help determine the appropriate dosage and form of zinc supplementation for your individual needs and health status.

 

Consuming too much zinc can lead to adverse effects, which may include:

 1. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps - more common zinc sulfate.

 

2. A metallic taste in the mouth, especially with lozenges or nasal sprays.

 

3. Copper deficiency, which can occur because zinc competes with copper for absorption in the body. This can cause symptoms such as anemia, fatigue, weakness, and neurological problems.

 

4. Excessive zinc intake can actually suppress the immune system.

 

5. A reduction in HDL (good) cholesterol in some people, where high doses of zinc are taken long-term.

 

 

6. Imbalances and deficiencies of other nutrients, due to interference with the absorption and metabolism of other minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium.

 

7. Neurological symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, and impaired coordination. In severe cases, zinc toxicity can cause seizures and coma.

What is the best time of day to take zinc?

There is no universally ‘best’ time to take zinc supplements. If you have specific concerns or medical conditions, consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalised guidance on when and how to take zinc supplements effectively. Here are some considerations to help determine the optimal timing:

1. With Food: This can help reduce the risk of stomach upset; and food can enhance the absorption of zinc by providing other nutrients that facilitate its uptake, such as protein.

 

2. Divided Doses: Taking zinc intake in multiple doses throughout the day can help to stabilise zinc levels of zinc, and may be easier on the stomach.

 

3. Before Bed: This can allow the body to absorb zinc while resting and may minimize any stomach discomfort.

 

4. Avoiding Interactions: Certain medications or nutrients can interact with zinc absorption. In such cases, it may be preferable to take zinc at a different time of day, away from other supplements or medications, such as with calcium or magnesium.

 

5. Consistency: Taking a zinc supplement at the same time of day helps ensure zinc levels are stable to optimise benefits over time.

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Further information resources:

 

" Zinc Effects on Your Respiratory System"

Dr Eric Berg (video)

"How Much Zinc is Too Much?"

Dr Eric Berg (video)

"Zinc Fact Sheet"

National Institutes of Health

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 Our Top 3

Zinc Supplements

The products below have been selected from the best reviews. If you use the affiliate links Our Highest Good makes a small commission from items you purchase, at no additional cost to you. Your support helps to create the content on this site and is very much appreciated!

Thorne Zinc

Thorne's zinc picolinate absorbs well, is highly bioavailable, and is a good choice for people needing higher doses of zinc. Our personal favourite.

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Pure Encapsulations Zinc

High recommended zinc picolinate. Highly absorbable form of zinc. Pure quality.

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Nature's Bounty Zinc

Nature's Bounty zinc gluconate is generally well-absorbed and tends to be more gentle on the stomach. A popular choice. 

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