Such a crucial mineral and one we don’t hear enough about. Zinc is needed in shed-loads for the immune system, hormones, fertility, cognitive function (brain), skin and mental health for a start. It helps regulate insulin and deficiency is linked to developing diabetes, macular degeneration, depression and Alzheimer’s.
Many people are low in it, I find, on testing (see here for mineral testing) and they develop problems in those areas, but also become more vulnerable to infections, or not being able to fight them off as effectively.
Low Zinc Symptoms
I generally look for white marks on the nails, a susceptibility to infection and stretchmarks. Hair loss, poor growth in children, anxiety and depression (especially in children, see my Pyroluria Factsheet here), and poor wound healing are common signs, too.
If someone presents with hormone imbalance, skin problems, are feeling anxious or low, have lost their sex drive (and general mojo) and keep getting infections, I’ll automatically think: zinc.
Don’t forget too that zinc is needed for the thyroid hormones to be produced properly and for the adrenals to help regulate cortisol, so stress and fatigue are important signs you may need more too.
I told you it was important!
Zinc in Foods
Highest in zinc are oysters (the renowned aphrodisiac is because zinc is involved in libido!), beef, crab, turkey, pumpkin seeds and many nuts have a significant amount.
Generally, I suggest you take zinc as part of a multi at about 15-25mg per day. That one is in the right balance, take 3-6 per day with food. (Multis are always best in divided dose through the day if you want to get the best out of them!) Make sure the multi has copper in it as long-term zinc supplements can suppress copper levels (which actually sometimes people use zinc to do if their copper is too high).
Manganese and iron are also important if you take a lot of zinc and note that calcium can affect your zinc absorption so increase your zinc if you’re taking regular calcium supplements eg. for bone density. In fact, calcium is not necessarily the right approach for osteoporosis anyway, see my Osteoporosis Factsheet here. Magnesium can be FAR more important. And make sure your calcium is in this form (MCHA).
If you are starting an infection – cold, flu, cystitis etc – it can be a good idea to increase zinc temporarily for a week or so to boost immunity. Trials show if you combine zinc and Vitamin C especially, a cold or viral infection time period can be halved. Check out my Infections Factsheet for more on this. Lozenges can be particularly effective to stop early sore throats and at the first signs of a cold (although I wish they wouldn’t put sugars in them so much!)
Forms of Zinc
There are several forms of zinc. You want to go for citrate, picolinate, methionine, bisglycinate or gluconate for best absorption – all the chelated forms are better absorbed than non-chelated. Sulphate and oxide are not so well-absorbed. Acetate used in lozenges seems to be successful. Zinc ascorbate will provide Vitamin C as well as zinc. I tend to go for citrate myself. And here is a balanced zinc and copper. If you don’t absorb well, chose Biocare’s Nutrisorb version.
For people who can’t tolerate corn-derived Vitamin C (that’s 99% of Vit C!), try an acerola mixed one (although be careful, some hypersensitives have still reacted because of cross-contamination of maltodextrin sprayed acerola, see the TGF Master List).
Some useful stuff for you now. First, a great summary from Patrick Holford on zinc and why it’s so important:
And a useful factsheet on zinc from the Linus Pauling Institute; they always have great info on nutrients.
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