Are All Zinc Supplements the Same?

Zinc is a powerful immune nutrient known for its benefits for providing immune health support and inflammation reduction as well as for improving cold and respiratory symptoms, wound healing, acne reduction, and lowering the risk of age-related diseases. Research on atherosclerosis and diabetes mellitus suggests that zinc deficiency may contribute to low-grade systemic inflammation.

Even more popular at the moment is the role of zinc and the potential benefits against COVID-19. This is probably one of the reasons that's driving the demand on zinc related products. In a ConsumerLab survey of 9,647 people who use dietary supplements shows that the supplements which experienced the greatest growth in popularity in 2020 were those being promoted to prevent or treat infection with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Zinc supplements achieved the highest growth with 13.5% points.

Does zinc help treat COVID 19? In order to answer that question, there are many zinc studies underway and you can review the status of these trials on clinicaltrials.gov. As of March 2021, there are 19 studies that have been launched to investigate the benefits of Zinc against COVID-19.

Zinc Deficiency: Groups at High Risk

While there are many food sources of zinc, including meat and shellfish, some people may be at a higher risk of not getting enough zinc in their diets (PubMed).

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
  • White spots (cuticles) in the fingernails.
  • Pale, rough skin, dry hair, and acne
  • Unhealthy weight loss caused by loss of appetite
  • Dandruff
  • Slow wound healing occurs in particularly bad cases of zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency in Infants and children

Young children are at greater risk of zinc deficiency because of increased zinc requirements during growth. Exclusively breast-fed infants of mothers with adequate zinc nutrition obtain sufficient zinc for the 1st 5-6 months of their life [PubMed]. After this age, complementary foods containing absorbable zinc are required to satisfy their requirements. In many low-income countries, complementary feeding is delayed and cereal foods are then used for feeding. These foods have low content of total and absorbable zinc and thus, fail to meet the needs for zinc. Conversely, early introduction of such foods may interfere with the absorption of zinc from breast milk due to their high phytate content [PubMed].

Zinc deficiency in Adolescents

The physiological requirements for zinc peak during adolescence at the time of the pubertal growth spurt, which generally occurs in girls between 10 years and 15 years and in boys between 12 years and 15 years. Even after the growth spurt has ceased, adolescents may require additional zinc to replenish depleted tissue zinc pools. [PubMed]

Zinc deficiency during Pregnancy and Lactation

Zinc supplementation is vital for pregnant women. If zinc was given to every mother-to-be, then a large portion of birth abnormalities, pre-eclampsia occurrences, and deformations could be avoided.

Increased nutritional demands during pregnancy and lactation predispose women to zinc deficiency [PubMed]These demands are greater during lactation, although, physiological adjustments in zinc absorption help to meet the needs for lactation. A number of studies have demonstrated a negative impact of therapeutic supplemental iron on zinc absorption during pregnancy [PubMed] and lactation [PubMed]. In pregnant women where dietary intakes of zinc were low, supplemental iron, in dosages as low as 60 mg/day prevented them from meeting their needs for zinc [PubMed].

Zinc deficiency in Elderly

Diet surveys indicate that zinc intakes by elderly persons are often inadequate, even in rich countries [PubMed]Several factors may contribute to poor zinc nutrition among the elderly, in particular, reduced consumption of zinc-rich foods such as red meat. In addition, there is some evidence that the efficiency of zinc absorption may decrease with age.

Not All Zinc is Created Equal

Chelated zinc is partially absorbed by the body. There are different types of chelation, but most zinc manufacturers do not inform customers which form they use. For companies which do, zinc gluconate, and zinc citrate are among the best forms of chelated zinc. Zinc orotate is a chelated form of zinc that is more readily absorbed by the body than any other zinc supplement available. Manufacturers of it will usually boast about having this type, because they have good reason to. Zinc orotate passes through the membranes of cells easily, and it pulls the highest amounts of accompanying minerals into the cells, which leads to higher tissue concentrations of zinc and other beneficial nutrients.

Different forms of zinc contain different amounts of elemental zinc, which refers to the weight of the zinc molecule by itself (Note: Most product labels tend to mark the elemental weight):
  • Zinc citrate is approximately 34% zinc by weight. For a dose of 50mg elemental zinc, take 146 mg zinc citrate. (Examine)
  • Zinc sulfate consists 23% of elemental zinc; thus, 220 mg of zinc sulfate contains 50 mg of elemental zinc (NIH).
  • Zinc gluconate is approximately 13% zinc by weight. For a dose of 50mg elemental zinc, take 385 mg zinc gluconate. (Examine)
  • Zinc monomethionine is approximately 21% zinc by weight. For a dose of 50mg elemental zinc, take 238 mg zinc monomethionine. (Examine)
  • Zinc picolinate (20% of elemental zinc) (Metabolics); How much elemental zinc is in zinc picolinate?
  • Zinc ascorbate (15%) (Metabolics
  • Zinc chloride (48%) (Metabolics
  • Zinc carbonate (52%) (Metabolics
  • Zinc bisglycinate (25%) (Metabolics); How much elemental zinc in zinc bisglycinate?
  • Zinc oxide (80%) (FamilyPractice). Although the percentage of elemental zinc is high, do take note that zinc oxide is one of the least bioavailable form.
  • Zinc carnosine: The typical clinical oral dose is 150 mg/day, containing 34 mg zinc and 116 mg L-carnosine.

Best Zinc Supplement 2021

Are all zinc supplements the same? The zinc supplements in this review are all manufactured by reputable companies that follow Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP), use high quality ingredients, and test for purity and quality.

Here are the best zinc supplements to help you meet your nutritional needs. As everyone has their own set of criteria, the best option for you might be different from another person.

1. Zinc Lozenges with Vitamin C - Healthy Immune Support Lozenges with 25mg of Zinc Supplement Per Lozenge + 30mg of Vitamin C - Best Seller > SHOP NOW AT AMAZON (AVAILABLE) - Amazon's Choice for Zinc Lozenges.

2. NOW Foods Zinc Glycinate Softgels - Best Chelated > SHOP NOW AT AMAZON (AVAILABLE)

3. Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc - Best Vegan Option > SHOP NOW AT AMAZON (available)

4. Nature's Bounty Zinc 50 mg Caplets > SHOP NOW AT AMAZON (AVAILABLE)

5. Nature's Bounty Immune 24 Hour +  - Best Zinc Supplement for Seniors > SHOP NOW AT AMAZON (AVAILABLE)

Can You Take Too Much Zinc Supplement?

How much zinc should I take daily? As for dosage, the recommended daily dosage for adults is typically 15–30 mg of 'elemental zinc' per day. Elemental zinc is generally the amount listed on the label of your supplement (Trusted SourceTrusted Source).

Related: How much elemental Zinc is in the different zinc compounds?

Taking zinc long term is typically safe for healthy adults, as long as the daily dose is under the set upper limit of 40 mg of elemental zinc (PubMed). Be aware that typical daily doses of zinc provided by zinc lozenges generally exceed tolerable upper limits for zinc, and for this reason, they should not be used for longer than about a week

Taking too much zinc can cause adverse side effects, such as decreased immune function, low copper levels, and reduced HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Foods that are high in zinc include oysters, crab, lobster, mussels, red meat, and poultry. Cereals are often fortified with zinc. Most multivitamin and nutritional supplements also contain zinc.

Interactions between zinc, copper, iron and phosphorus

Do not take zinc supplements and copper, iron, or phosphorus supplements at the same time. It is best to space doses of these products 2 hours apart, to get the full benefit from each dietary supplement.

Copper and zinc compete for absorption sites in the small intestine. If there's a lot of zinc around, copper tends to lose out and a copper deficiency may develop.

The human body needs copper to properly utilize zinc, so zinc supplementation will yield poor results during a time of copper deficiency. Unfortunately, it is unsafe to supplement with copper directly. It is far too easy to overdose and to cause serious liver problems with direct copper consumption. There are unscrupulous individuals who sell colloidal copper for internal consumption on the Internet, but beware of such scoundrels. 

The bottom line

Zinc is an essential nutrient that you need to get enough of in your diet. However, as not everyone is able to meet their need through foods alone, supplements can help reduce the risk of a zinc deficiency.

Of course, not all supplements are created equal. It’s important to look for high quality products that have been tested to ensure quality and accuracy.

If you’re concerned about your zinc intake, it’s worth speaking with your healthcare provider to see if a zinc supplement is a good option, as well as to determine an optimal dose.



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