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Zinc is one of the essential trace elements necessary for good health. It’s found in every cell of our bodies.
Zinc is a common element, found in many foods, so we don’t have to go far to find it. That’s great news because zinc is a requirement for many vital metabolic functions of the body’s cells. Although our bodies only need a tiny amount of zinc, we must consume it daily, because the body is unable to store excess amounts.
Our bodies consume zinc constantly, as the chemical processes that allow cells to generate energy, heal themselves and reproduce are reliant in part on zinc.
Some people struggle to get the right amount of zinc in their diets. Although zinc deficiency isn’t as widespread as some other nutritional deficits, it’s a dangerous health problem when it happens. A persistent zinc deficiency can cause significant and long-lasting ailments.
Fortunately, there are many great zinc supplements on the market. Read on to learn more about zinc and its role in good health.
How Does the Body Use Zinc?
Zinc is the second most abundant micronutrient in the body. Only iron is more plentiful. Zinc has a broad array of impressive benefits. Supplements can prevent zinc deficiency and its results, which are devastating, especially to children and pregnant women. Zinc is essential for the development of a fetus’s nervous system. Zinc, along with folic acid, helps boost the health of a developing child’s brain.
Zinc is essential for hundreds of enzymatic reactions in the body that we rely on. It’s is a required element for the good health and high performance of the immune system. Without healthy levels of zinc, the cells of the immune system don’t form correctly. By strengthening the immune system, zinc helps fight off the common cold, sore throats, ear infections, lower and upper respiratory infections, and swine flu.
Zinc is helpful for the health of the visual system. It’s taken by some for night blindness and macular degeneration, a progressive disease of the eye that leads to blindness. It’s been given to treat complications HIV, including AIDS diarrhea-wasting syndrome and hyperbilirubinemia (high levels of the liver enzyme bilirubin in the blood).
The cells we rely on for taste and smell require zinc to work. A zinc deficiency can be responsible for the loss of our ability to smell or taste.
Symptoms of a Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency caused by insufficient intake isn’t common in North America, but people can have problems absorbing nutrients due to a number of ailments. Moderate to severe zinc deficiency can be found in those with intestinal disorders that prevent thorough absorption of nutrients, including some debilitating diseases, and those people in active alcoholism or recovering from alcoholism. People recovering from alcoholism are often zinc-deficient due to swollen and damaged tissues in the digestive tract. This is correctable with supplements.
These are the areas most affected by getting too little zinc:
Immune system. Inflammation is a part of the immune system’s response to infections, but turning off the inflammatory response requires zinc. Inadequate zinc levels cause inflammation levels to stay high, resulting in chronic inflammation
Skin. A deficiency of zinc causes dry, scaly skin, makes eczema flare-ups worse and can exacerbate dermatitis. Wound healing is impaired if the body has too little available zinc, leading to slow wound healing.
Diarrhea. Zinc deficiency has been known to increase the severity and frequency of diarrhea in children.
Vision. Chronic zinc deficiency contributes to night blindness and age-related macular degeneration.
Taste and smell. A moderate to severe zinc deficiency impairs the sense of smell and taste.
Fertility. A lack of healthy levels of zinc can cause problems with fertility, as zinc is a vital element for the production of sperm.
Growth. Outside of North American and Europe, delayed growth in children is usually caused by zinc deficiency.
The Benefits of Zinc Supplements
- Helps you stay healthy by boosting your immune system. Zinc is an essential micronutrient for the best functioning of your immune system. The immune system is reliant on a kind of cell called a T cell swinging into action. If our bodies are lacking the right amount of zinc, T cell activity is sluggish to start, which allows infection and disease-causing germs to establish a foothold. Zinc ensures these vital functions take place.
- Zinc may shorten the length of the common cold by around one-third. That’s 3 days for the typical cold.
- Accelerates wound healing. Zinc is used for treating ulcers and skin injuries, including burns. Skin tissue holds around 5 percent of the body’s supplies of zinc, so it’s easy to see how vital a good intake of zinc is for good skin health.
Which Zinc Supplement is Best?
There are many forms of zinc on the market and even more ways to take it but finding the best form of a zinc supplement isn’t hard. You can find zinc supplements in tablet, capsule, liquid and lozenge form. Zinc nasal spray has been reported to cause a loss of sense of smell and taste. These are some of the more common forms of zinc you’ll find on the market:
- Zinc gluconate: Zinc gluconate is inexpensive and often used in cold remedies. It is well-absorbed by the body.
- Zinc picolinate: The best-absorbed form of zinc, zinc picolinate tends to be a bit more expensive than zinc gluconate.
- Zinc acetate: You’ll find zinc acetate in many products for bad colds, including lozenges.
You may encounter the term “chelated zinc” on your journey to find the best zinc supplement. Chelation refers to a process by which plain zinc is made into a better product for human consumption. Raw zinc isn’t absorbed easily or rapidly by the body, which is why it’s treated with natural amino acids, organic acids or inorganic acids. For example, zinc treated with picolinic acid gives us picolinic acid. Raw zinc treated with gluconic acid yields zinc gluconate.
Is one form of zinc supplement superior to another? The major difference between all of these kinds of zinc supplements is bioavailability—the degree to which the zinc you take can be used by your body. Zinc picolinate is the most rapidly and thoroughly absorbed, but it’s a bit more expensive than zinc gluconate. Zinc gluconate and zinc picolinate are equally beneficial.
Zinc Supplement Dosages
As you can tell, zinc is powerful. Don’t take mega-dose zinc supplements unless you’re told to by your doctor. Don’t exceed the recommended daily intake values. For adult men, that’s 11 mg per day, while adult women shouldn’t exceed 8 mg. Pregnant women can take up to 11 mg a day but consult a doctor first. Do not exceed 40 mg of supplemental zinc a day unless you’ve been diagnosed with a zinc deficiency by a doctor.
It’s possible to get too much zinc. Zinc toxicity can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, headaches and nausea.
The Bottom Line
Because high-dose zinc supplements can lead to dangerous side effects, it’s important to stick to recommendations and only take supplements when necessary.
Our Best Zinc Supplement Picks
The following are our picks for the best zinc supplements available, and details on each.