Zinc is the most abundant trace mineral in the body and participates in the catalytic activity of more than 300 enzymes involved in the synthesis and metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and other micronutrients (1, 2, 3, 4).
Zinc also plays roles in stabilizing cell and organ structures, immune function, wound healing, cell division, growth, blood clotting, thyroid function, vision, taste, and smell. Despite its critical role in humans, zinc is not stored in the body and must be gotten through our diet, making supplementation all that more important (5, 6).
1. Thorne Research Zinc Picolinate
Thorne Research’s zinc supplement comes with a chelated form of zinc meaning that it can be dissolved in both water or stomach acid.
Each serving contains 30 mg of zinc, making it a realistic choice for those looking to successfully and safely supplement their zinc intake. It also comes packed in an extremely pure capsule – a great choice for those concerned about allergens, gluten, or soy. For these reasons, it’s our #1 pick.
2. Nature’s Way Zinc Lozenges
Nature’s Way Zinc lozenges provide vitamin C and echinacea, in addition to zinc. These herbal supplements are believed to possibly help prevent and decrease the recovery time needed for upper respiratory infections and the common cold. The dosage amount is also more than acceptable with 23 mg of zinc per serving.
The only real drawback to this supplement option is the sometimes bitter aftertaste zinc can leave. Nature’s Way does use sorbitol, mannitol, and fructose to address the questionable taste which may not fit the requirements of every person.
3. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc
With a realistic 15 mg of zinc per serving, you’ll also get vitamin c and a myriad of raw fruits and vegetables in each serving. The raw blend for this supplement includes common and well-known staples such as beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, and apples.
Despite this eclectic mix, Garden of Life still manages to provide a very pure option, which is why it is within the top 3 products on our list.
4. BulkSupplements Zinc Gluconate Powder
BulkSupplements lives up to their high-reputation, but those looking for a more simple consumption method may want to look elsewhere.
The only real issue with this supplement choice is the dosage amount recommended for zinc. As each dose is designed to be 15 mg, there is no way to circumvent the need for measuring and scale use. This could prove to be tedious and annoying for those who don’t plan on long-time use or would prefer simplicity.
5. Pure Encapsulations Zinc
With its water-soluble nature and its absence of an alkaline base, this supplement provides a reliable choice for those who want something a bit more simple.
Pure Encapsulations delivers 30 mg of zinc in the form of zinc gluconate in a hypoallergenic format. Absent of gluten, soy, or any of the common allergens, this is a safe choice for many people.
6. Nature’s Bounty Zinc
Available in most supermarkets, this company has a history of success when it comes to supplementing formulation and its zinc product does not disappoint. Nature’s Bounty delivers on dosage amount, purity, and ingredients respectively.
Despite its very high dose, this is still a solid choice.
7. Good State – ionic Liquid Zinc
The 15 mg of zinc supplied through the use of this supplement is standard and can be done in a variety of ways depending on preference.
GoodState also prides itself on a high-quality formulation that is water-soluble and efficient. Based on available lab-testing results, GoodState lives up to its claims and provides one of the purest forms of zinc available.
8. Wellness One World Liquid Zinc
One of the only liquid zinc options on this list, Wellness One World sets itself apart from the rest of the competition.
One of the main reasons this supplement made it above others is due to its highly rated performance and its convenience. The dropper provides an easy measuring option, as it’s pre-labeled, and provides a lot of versatility.
9. Jarrow Formulas Zinc
Focused on supporting the immune system, Jarrow Formulas Zinc is one of many trusted and effective zinc supplements.
Though it does not come with a wide range of fancy formulations, it still provides an adequate amount of zinc at 15 mg per serving and manages to give a very pure form of zinc. If you’re looking for a solid zinc choice, this should be on your list of options.
10. NOW Supplements Zinc
Though NOW Supplements Zinc Picolinate is on the cusp of our maximum dosage limit (50 mg), it was still able to make the list because of its formulation and the company’s reputation for quality supplements.
Additionally, this option provides veggie capsules that provide a friendly option for vegetarians. Overall, this is a trusted, reliable, and affordable choice for those who may be looking to try zinc supplementation with little to no concern.
How We Rank
When looking for the best zinc supplements, we considered many different aspects. First, we looked for supplements that are available in a bioavailable format. We placed forms that were highly water-soluble towards the top of the list. Supplements that require stomach acid to dissolve the zinc for access were not included on the list. This would be why popular brands such as EZ Melts were not listed. Though popular, the body doesn’t absorb them as well as other supplements.
Next, we looked at dosage levels. While zinc is generally considered to be a safe mineral, there is still the possibility of taking too much which could lead to toxicity. Too much zinc could also lead to issues such as copper deficiency which may also lead to subsequent issues. With this in mind, we wanted to make sure the supplements listed were providing recommended amounts versus excessive levels of zinc. Anything with an amount higher than 50 mg was excluded outright from the rankings. Those with lower to moderate doses were given preference on this list.
If there were any third-party lab results available online, this information was also considered when determining the rankings. This served to measure the quality and efficacy of each supplement. Supplements that provided to be more effective were placed higher on the list. This is especially true of Thorne Research’s zinc and Nature’s Way.
Lastly, we also looked for supplements that provided a large variety of delivery methods. Supplements are often sought after because of their health benefits and their convenience. Having multiple supplements available in a variety of useful methods ensures that you have choices to best suit your lifestyle, whether it be in meals or smoothies or encapsulated. While this was not used as a sole tool to exclude anyone type of zinc, those with a more unique delivery method were given more consideration.
1. Zinc helps the immune function be at its best. Due to it’s importance, studies dating back as far as 1990 show that even a mild deficiency can impair immune function and increase the risk of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infection (7, 8).
2. Zinc acts as an antioxidant. A 1997 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that zinc supplementation was able to reduce fat peroxides in the blood (9).
Another 2011 study demonstrated that zinc acts as an anti-inflammatory agent by inhibiting the production of many inflammatory cytokines (10).
3. Zinc has also been linked to a decreased risk for a number of diseases, due to its role in the growth and repair of cells. A 2011 study performed by the Health Research Institute found that people suffering from Autism tend to have lower levels of zinc than non-autistic individuals. In the study, the severity of autistic symptoms decreased after patients were treated with zinc (23).
4. Zinc can improve the function of killer cells to wipe out tumors and prevent cancer. A study published in 2012 showed that low levels of zinc are associated with head, neck, lung, gall bladder, prostate, and ovarian cancers (26).
5. Zinc may also be a treatment for epileptic seizures. A 2015 study in epileptic children, published in Functional Neurology, revealed that zinc therapy significantly reduced the frequency of seizures in 31% of the treated children (30).
6. Zinc plays an important role in heart health. Two 2013 studies showed that zinc levels are often low in people with atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart disease, chest pain, and heat stroke, and another study found that a higher rate of cardiac failure was associated with zinc deficiency (31, 32, 33, 34).
7. Zinc is important for proper hormone function, including insulin. To that end, zinc plays a vital role in the treatment of diabetes. Zinc binds to insulin receptors, and by mimicking insulin, it reduces excessive insulin secretion by pancreatic cells and helps protect the pancreatic tissue from damage (35, 36).
8. Zinc plays a vital role in brain function. Studies have shown zinc supplementation was able to enhance cognitive recovery in zinc-deficient stroke victims (41).
One study in particular out of Canada observed in children found that zinc supplementation resulted in superior neuropsychological performance, particularly attention and reasoning skills. While a randomized trial showed that zinc supplementation in infants and toddlers led to increased activity, mental development and motor quality (42, 43, 44, 45,).
A 2014 study in elderly patients with Alzheimer’s, showed that zinc therapy protected against cognitive decline by lowering free blood copper levels, which can be toxic to the brain (46).
It also increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels, which are low in people with depression.
9. Zinc also plays a major role in male reproductive health. In men, zinc plays a key role in sperm count, motility, and viability (53, 54, 55). Low to moderate doses (12 -120 mg/kg) of zinc intake appeared to enhance reproductive function in rats.
Zinc is also involved in the synthesis of testosterone and in infertile men (with low blood testosterone), supplementing with zinc led to an increase in sperm count, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), and fertility (56, 57, 58).
10. Zinc also plays a major role in women’s hormonal health. Zinc deficiency is associated with hormonal imbalances that can lead to ovarian function problems, menstruation irregularities, and infertility (62).
In women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), insulin resistance can cause increased production of androgen hormones (e.g., testosterone and DHEA), which can lead to balding, body hair growth, irregular periods and infertility (63).
11. Zinc also plays a role in how we look. Zinc affects the hormone, Leptin – which plays a role in appetite and weight control. Zinc restriction can lead to reduced leptin production from fat cells in rats and humans (71, 72, 73, 74).
12. Zinc could help children with sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition that affects the blood and primarily occurs in African-Americans. The red blood cells that normally carry oxygen become bent and subsequently burst into the bloodstream. This condition eventually leads to the lack of healthy red blood cells and, consequently, anemia. Zinc deficiency is fairly common in these patients and can often lead to an increase in infection.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers chose to review the long-term effects of zinc supplementation in those aged 4-10 years with sickle cell anemia. Children who received 10mg per day of zinc grew approximately 1.3 cm during the study. The supplementation also assisted in maintaining both normal height and weight for those who were in the older range of children (83).
Though the specific reason for this link appears to be unclear and more studies are necessary, there are a great many benefits that could result from zinc supplementation.
1. Too much zinc can harm the immune system. A study in healthy young men gave them 150mg of zinc supplementation, twice per day, for six weeks. What they found was that high doses of zinc reduced several immune functions, including activation of lymphocytes and phagocytosis of neutrophils (84).
2. Oral zinc can cause IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) like symptoms. These include indigestion, diarrhea, headache, stomach pains, nausea, and vomiting. Zinc applied directly to open wounds can also cause itching, burning, and stinging.
3. Zinc nasal spray can cause loss of smell. In June 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration advised consumers not to use certain zinc-containing nose sprays after receiving over 100 reports of loss of smell.
4. Additionally, when taken long-term, zinc can cause copper deficiency. People with low copper levels might experience neurological issues, such as numbness and weakness in the arms and legs.
5. Zinc could cause an increased risk of kidney failure. While multiple health benefits can be obtained through the use of zinc supplements, there are also some risks. In the case of the kidneys specifically, an adequate and appropriate amount of zinc can help to prevent chronic debilitating diseases and reduce chronic kidney failure. Those who use zinc in excessive amounts, however, may find additional risks through constant use.
Zinc is commonly found with cadmium. Cadmium is a chemical element that is both soft and malleable. As it is considered a metal, this could prove to be detrimental if exposure occurs for long periods. Though zinc does have the possibility to reduce the amount of toxicity that occurs with the exposure to cadmium, excessive amounts could still pose a high risk to kidney function.
Constant and consistent cadmium exposure can often lead to the development of kidney disease, eventually leading to kidney failure. Cadmium exposure could also lead to both bone disease and some cancers (85).
Zinc has two standard dosages. The low dosage is 5-10 mg, while the high dosage is 25-45mg. The low dose works well as a daily preventative, while the high dosage should be taken by anyone at risk for a zinc deficiency.
Good dietary sources of zinc include red meats, seafood, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and whole grains. However, zinc is more readily absorbed from meat and animal proteins. Vegetables are not ideal sources because they contain phytate, a compound in plants that prevents zinc from being absorbed (86).
What is zinc and where does it come from? Zinc is classified as an essential mineral, and with good reason. It is essential to over 180 biologic functions. Many foods rich in trace minerals contain zinc, with the highest amounts in meat products. Lesser amounts are found in milk, spinach, nuts, oats, rice, and beans. Rice and beans are high in phytates which compete with zinc for bioavailability, thus not as good of a source as animal products or nuts and beans.
Who needs it and what are the symptoms of deficiency? Many experts say that zinc deficiency is widespread. People living in poverty with diets low in zinc, especially children below five years of age, need zinc the most. Deficiencies result in poor wound healing because of zinc’s role in cellular repair. Zinc deficiency also leads to slower growth. Most importantly, children with low levels of zinc are at increased risk for infection, severe infections, and death.
What are the additional benefits of zinc? Zinc is beneficial in treating diarrhea and slow growth in children, vital for healthy skin and helps to reduce problems such as acne, controls sleep disorders and is regarded as an excellent sleep promoter, and helps to fight bad breath.
What are good natural food sources of zinc? The best sources include pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, peas, green beans, sprouts, spinach, corn, kidney beans, watermelon seeds, garlic, potatoes, fortified cereals, milk, brown rice, pomegranates, avocados, blackberries, raspberries, beef, egg yolk, lobster, pork, lamb, crab, oysters and shrimp.
Is Zinc good for one’s sex drive? The role of zinc in sexual health and libido is partly related to the impact of the mineral on testosterone. That is, the boost in T-levels associated with zinc supplementation can lead to enhanced sexual health and sex drive.
What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency? Symptoms of zinc deficiency include acne, skin rashes, hair thinning (Alopecia), repeated diarrhea, lack of appetite, dry skin, vision issue, stunted or slowed growth, weight loss, slow wound healing and a poor sense of smell or taste.
Which population is at the highest risk of zinc deficiency? People with the highest risk for a zinc deficiency include alcoholics, those with gastrointestinal issues, liver disorders, diabetes, kidney disease, or those suffering from Crohn’s or Sickle Cell disease.
Does zinc boost testosterone? Zinc is an aphrodisiac and testosterone booster, but it will only help raise testosterone levels if you’re deficient in zinc. It will also aid in raising libido and erection quality.
Does zinc interact with any medications? Zinc has significant interactions with a few different medications: Cephalexin and Penicillamine. Cephalexin is used to treat infections and can have its effectiveness reduced when taken within three hours after taking zinc. Penicillamine is used to treat Wilson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis, and when taken within 2 hours of taking zinc, can have its rate of absorption reduced. Zinc also has a moderate reaction with a few different antibiotics, so you should always consult with your doctor if you are supplementing with zinc.
Can you take zinc with other supplements? Always consult your doctor when combining supplements. For example, taking zinc and vitamin C at the same time could cause digestive discomfort. Iron also inhibits zinc absorption, so if you’re also taking iron, it may be best to supplement the two at different times.
Does zinc enhance your erection quality? Erectile dysfunction has been found in recent years to be a symptom of zinc deficiency. Zinc also enables the male body to produce testosterone. Because of this, your levels of zinc may affect erectile dysfunction. Despite its importance, many adults do not get enough zinc.
Does zinc make you gain weight? No, however, zinc is an important part of maintaining your dietary health and assisting with weight loss. Low levels of zinc will keep the thyroid from producing enough Thyroid Hormone for your body, which causes irritability, fatigue, and a decreased appetite.
What foods contain zinc? Zinc can be found in oysters, red meat, poultry, crabs, beans, nuts and certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster) contain zinc.
Is Zinc healthy for children? Yes, zinc is not only healthy for children but, in most cases, is recommended. The necessary dosage will depend heavily upon the age of the child specifically involved.
Is Zinc available through multi-vitamin use? Yes, zinc is available through most multivitamin/mineral dietary supplements. There may be several types of zinc contained within multi-vitamins so it is important to be aware of which zinc forms required for any desired health goals
Does Zinc cause weird dreams? Many people report experiencing strange, vivid dreams when taking ZMA supplements. There have not been studies performed on this specific topic, so there are only theories as to why this may be occurring. Magnesium’s ability to improve sleep quality may offer an explanation. Dreams occur during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, and repeatedly getting a good night’s rest, a.k.a. quality REM sleep is tied to improved memory functions. Since magnesium has been linked to improved sleep, users not only experience prolonged dream time, they also have better recall of what they dreamed about.
Is there a possibility of taking too much zinc? Though it is not common, it is possible to take too much zinc. Zinc overdose can be caused by dietary supplements or due to excess ingestion.
What are the signs of Zinc overdose? Though taking zinc is essential to overall health, there are instances in which too much be consumed. Too much zinc could result in frequent infections, intestinal discomfort, or flu-like symptoms depending on the severity.
Can Zinc be used during pregnancy? Yes, taking zinc during pregnancy is especially important due to rapid cell growth. Zinc helps to support the immune system, and maintain both taste and smell. It also helps to heal wounds
Can Zinc be used while breastfeeding? Yes, zinc is used while new mothers are breastfeeding. While there is only minimal evidence to support its use, there is no risk to the baby. Zinc will be transferred to the baby, however, growing newborns require zinc as long as the amount does not exceed 25-50 mg per day. Zinc sulfates should be avoided however as these could prove detrimental to proper immune system function.
Does zinc have any effects on heart health? Yes, zinc has a very distinct effect on the heart and its overall health. Zinc regulates calcium located within the cells of the heart muscle. As zinc is present in the heart and interacts with the calcium, it affects the function of the heart
Does zinc have any effect on vision? Zinc can be very helpful for those with vision problems. It can not only help with macular degeneration, but can also help improve the overall quality of vision, but also cloudy cataracts.
Is zinc healthy for diabetics to use? Yes, zinc is safe for those with diabetes. Individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes often have lower zinc levels due to its being excreted through urine. Supplementing with zinc helps the production and secretion of insulin and helps to maintain sugar levels.
Why is zinc called an essential trace element? Trace elements are minerals present in small amounts within living tissue. Zin c is known as a trace element due to its role in multiple enzyme systems in the human body. It is critical as an essential ion in the catalytic, structural, and regulatory processes in the body.
Are there different types of zinc? There are many different types of Zinc, each of which affects the body in a specific way. The most popular zinc options are Zinc gluconate and zinc picolinate. Zinc gluconate is one of the most common zinc forms available over-the-counter and is used frequently in cold remedies. Zinc picolinate is also popular and is generally absorbed better than other forms
Zinc is one of the most important minerals in the human body. It’s involved in everything from treating and preventing certain diseases, improving sexual health, fighting off depression and much more. Moreover, while rare, side effects from zinc are still possible. Therefore you should always consult your doctor before beginning a supplementation regimen.
Zinc can be gotten from food, so as long as they are included in a healthy diet, real food should be your first source of zinc. However, to avoid a potential deficiency, regular supplementation may be a good idea. As always, consult your doctor.
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