Zinc is a mineral, an essential trace element, and is needed for proper growth and maintenance of the human body. Zinc is used for many health benefits including increased immune function, the common cold, wound healing, diarrhea and elderly associated disorders.


Zinc was originally established in 1869 but it wasn’t until 1961, human trials began for individuals in countries where bread, potatoes and milk were abundant in their diet. Administering animal protein and zinc supplements corrected the symptoms associated with the deficiency.

Health Benefits

  • Immune Function- Zinc is required for T-lymphocytes proliferation. Zinc deficiency can impair macrophage and neutrophil, natural killer cell activity. These alterations might explain why low zinc is associated with susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections.
  • Common Cold- Zinc reduces the severity and duration of the cold symptoms by inhibiting replication in the nasal mucosa and suppressing inflammation.
  • Wound Healing- Helps maintain integrity of skin and mucus membranes.
  • Diarrhea
  • Elderly Associated Issues such as macular degeneration


Zinc is naturally present in some foods and is available as a dietary supplement.

  • Cold lozenges
  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • In some over-the-counter medicines (OTC)

Chelated- Organic ZInc is easily digested and is attached to another substance such as an amino acid.

  • Zinc Gluconate- Very popular OTC. Made with fermented glucose.
  • ZInc Orotate- Bound to orotic acid
  • Zinc Citrate- Water soluble made with citric acid. Less bitter taste
  • Zinc Acetate- Made with acetic acid. Most commonly used in lozenges and for the common cold
  • Zinc Picolinate- made with picolinate acid. Best for absorption and used for treating deficiency.

NonChelated- Inorganic Zinc is not digested but used out side of the body

  • Zinc Sulfate- Generally used for eye drops or skin healing
  • ZInc Oxide- Used topical for skin disorders such as dermatitis, eczema, diper rash and psoriasis. Also a main ingredient in most sunscreens.


Zinc is found in a variety of foods such as lean meat, seafood, eggs, beans, chick peas, seeds and nuts (cashews and almonds). Oysters contain more zinc then any other food. Whole-grain breads, cereals, legumes, and other foods containing phytates can inhibit absorption of zinc. The bioavailability of zinc from foods containing phytates is decreased compared to animal food products. In other words, you can still absorb zinc from all these food items mentioned above but you get more bang for your buck with animal foods.

Symptoms of Deficiency

  • Impaired immune function
  • Delayed healing of wounds
  • Delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males
  • Eye and skin lesions (dermatitis)
  • Hair loss (alopecia)
  • Taste abnormalities, Loss of appetite, Weight loss (anorexia), Diarrhea
  • Mental lethargy
  • Growth retardation, especially in children infants

Risk Factor of Deficiency

The following can possibly cause a deficiency in Zinc.

  • Maternal zinc deficiency can possibly cause fetal malformations and low birth weight
  • Disorders such as sickle cell, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, chronic alcoholism
  • During chronic healing such as sepsis, burns and injuries
  • Medications such as diuretics
  • Elderly who are bedbound
  • Malnourished population
  • Malabsorption disorder Acrodermatitis enteropathica. A rare disorder usually noted after an infant weans from breastmilk. A rash like dermatitis develops around the eyes, nose, mouth and diaper area. The disorder can also cuase hair loss, paronychia (infected tissue around the nail beds), impaired immunity, impaired growth and diarrhea

Common Side Effects

Zinc is generally safe. However, toxicity can occur from acute high doses of zinc

  • Nausea/vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Mouth irritation, sore and bad taste

Prolonged period of high zinc levels can inhibit copper metabolism

Drug Interactions

Zinc can interfere with absorption of certain medications and supplements

  • Some quinolone and tetracycline antibiotics.
  • Penicillamine
  • Diuretics
  • Copper supplements


What do you use Zinc for? What form do you use? Does your sunscreen contain Zinc?

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