Zinc is an essential mineral that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. Zinc is also found in many cold lozenges and some over-the-counter drugs sold as cold remedies.
Zinc performs multiple functions in the body and that is why supplementation is important.
Sources of Zinc:
- Food- Zinc is found in Oysters in high quantities, it’s also found in poultry and red meat. Other sources include beans, nuts, seafood (crabs, lobster), breakfast cereals, and whole grains.
- Dietary supplements- Supplements contain several forms of zinc, including zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, and zinc acetate.
- Other sources- Zinc is present in several products, including some labeled as homeopathic medications, sold over the counter for the treatment and prevention of colds.
Functions of Zinc in the body
- Immune function- The body requires zinc to develop and activate white blood cells which are important in fighting infections. Low zinc status has been associated with increased susceptibility to pneumonia and other infections in children in developing countries and the elderly.
- Wound healing- Zinc helps maintain the integrity of skin and mucosal membranes, therefore, promoting wound healing.
- Diarrhea – zinc helps reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea in zinc-deficient or otherwise malnourished children
- Common cold- zinc could reduce the severity and duration of cold symptoms
- Promote Blood Sugar Control – Zinc is well known for its role in blood sugar control and insulin secretion. Insulin is the hormone responsible for transporting sugar from your bloodstream to your tissues
- Helps Fight Acne– Zinc supplements are often used to promote skin health and treat common skin conditions like acne
- May Improve Heart Health– Some research shows that taking zinc may improve several risk factors for heart disease and may even lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
- Slows Macular Degeneration – Zinc supplements are often used to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and help protect against vision loss and blindness. Macular degeneration is a common eye disease and one of the leading causes of vision loss around the globe
- Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for a proper sense of taste and smell.
Types of Zinc Supplements available in the market
When choosing a zinc supplement, you’ll likely notice that there are many different types available.
These various forms of zinc impact health in distinct ways.
Here are a few you might find on the market:
- Zinc gluconate: As one of the most common over-the-counter forms of zinc, zinc gluconate is often used in cold remedies, such as lozenges and nasal sprays.
- Zinc acetate: Like zinc gluconate, zinc acetate is often added to cold lozenges to reduce symptoms and speed up the rate of recovery.
- Zinc sulfate: In addition to helping prevent zinc deficiency, zinc sulfate has been shown to reduce the severity of acne.
- Zinc picolinate: Some research suggests that your body may absorb this form better than other types of zinc, including zinc gluconate and zinc citrate.
- Zinc orotate: This form is bound to orotic acid and one of the most common types of zinc supplements on the market.
- Zinc citrate: One study showed that this type of zinc supplement is as well-absorbed as zinc gluconate but has a less bitter, more appealing taste.
For adults, the recommended daily dosage is typically 15–30 mg of elemental zinc. Higher doses have been used for treating certain conditions, including acne, diarrhea, and respiratory infections.
However, due to the potential side effects associated with excess zinc consumption, it’s best not to exceed the upper limit of 40 mg per day — unless under medical supervision.