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Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a range of roles in the human body, including supporting the immune system and wound healing. Zinc is present in certain foods or available as a dietary supplement.

This article will discuss what zinc does, its benefits, potential side effects, and provide a list of products a person may consider trying.

Zinc has many uses in the body. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes that zinc plays a role in:

  • immune function
  • wound healing
  • protein synthesis
  • DNA synthesis
  • cell division
  • supporting growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence
  • promoting a sense of taste and smell
  • aiding recovery from the common cold
  • treating diarrhea
  • slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that gradually causes vision loss

According to the NIH, most people in the United States get enough zinc from their food. However, other people may not be able to consume the amount they need, including:

  • People who have digestive disorders or have had gastrointestinal surgery: Disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease decrease the amount of zinc the body absorbs and the amount lost through urination.
  • Vegetarians or vegans: Not eating meat can cause a lack of zinc. The NIH suggests that these people may need to eat 50% more zinc than the recommended amount.
  • Breastfed infants over 6 months old: Breast milk does not contain enough zinc for an infant over 6 months. Formula or pureed meat can provide infants over 6 months old with the zinc they require.
  • People with alcohol use disorder: Alcohol decreases the amount of zinc the body absorbs and increases the amount lost in urination. Those eating a limited amount of food may also lack zinc.
  • People who have sickle cell disease: Research suggests that 44% of children who have sickle cell disease have low plasma zinc concentration. Additionally, 60–⁠70% of adults with sickle cell disease are zinc deficient.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding people: Pregnancy can cause zinc deficiency due to the high zinc requirement for developing fetuses. Breast milk contains zinc to nourish the baby, leaving less for the body to use.
  • Older adults: Researchers found that people aged between 60–⁠65 may have zinc intakes below 50% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). Reduced zinc intake by older adults may be due to difficulty eating certain foods or drug interactions.

The NIH states that the RDA of zinc is 11 mg for adult males and 8 mg for adult females. A person who does not get enough zinc from their diet may benefit from taking a zinc supplement.

Zinc deficiency may cause the following symptoms:

  • hair loss
  • lowered immunity
  • reduced production of sex hormones in males
  • diarrhea
  • eye and skin sores
  • loss of appetite
  • slow growth in infants and children
  • impotence
  • delayed sexual development in adolescents
  • weight loss
  • problems with wounds healing
  • lowered alertness
  • lowered ability to taste food

Having the correct level of zinc in the body can help to:

Boost immunity and reduce inflammation

Zinc is essential to sustain a functioning immune system. Zinc oversee the elimination of pathogens, and a deficiency can reduce this function. Certain immune system cells also need zinc to produce or activate them.

Zinc can help with common cold symptoms. Researchers found that cold symptoms cleared up more quickly in people who took a zinc acetate lozenge containing 13.3 mg of zinc every 2–3 hours than those who did not.

However, further research is necessary to determine the best dosage of zinc for the common cold.

Maintain healthy skin

Zinc is an important nutrient for healthy skin. Zinc has anti-inflammatory properties and is useful for inflammatory skin diseases, such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and ulcers.

A 2104 review suggests that zinc taken orally may be useful for:

The review also shows that although zinc sulfate can help treat severe acne, it can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

In the same way that zinc deficiency can cause a person to have issues, too much zinc can also create problems. A person who has too much zinc in their diet may experience:

Different zinc supplements will have different doses. Zinc supplements can contain several forms of zinc, including:

  • zinc sulfate
  • zinc acetate
  • zinc gluconate

The label on each package should state the dosage for each zinc supplement. A person should speak to their doctor regarding the correct dosage of zinc for them.

According to the NIH, the maximum dosage of zinc an adult should consume daily is 40 mg.

Many zinc supplements are available to buy. Below, we list four products that people may wish to try. Many of these products contain a dose higher than the RDA. Always speak to a doctor before taking any zinc supplements.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All product information is purely research-based.

Thorne zinc picolinate 30 mg

Thorne zinc picolinate contains 30 milligrams (mg) of zinc, bound to the organic acid picolinic acid. The picolinic acid helps the body to absorb zinc.

According to the company, this product is NSF Certified for Sport Details.

People should take Thorne zinc picolinate once a day or as recommended by a doctor.

Thorne zinc picolinate is available for purchase here.

Vitamin Code raw zinc 30 mg

Vitamin Code raw zinc contains 67% of the RDA of vitamin C alongside zinc, further increasing its skin and immune system benefits.

Vitamin Code raw zinc contains no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or additives and is suitable for vegans.

Vitamin Code recommend taking the supplement twice daily. However, this dose is higher than the RDA of zinc, and a person should speak to their healthcare provider before consumption.

Vitamin Code raw zinc is available for purchase here.

Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne 25 mg

Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne is a multivitamin containing zinc gluconate and vitamins C, B6, A, and E for additional skin benefits.

Puritan’s Pride also recommend taking its supplement twice a day. As the dose is higher than the RDA of zinc, a person should speak to their healthcare before consumption.

Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne is available for purchase here.

Zand Echinacea Zinc Herbalozenge Very Cherry 5 mg

This lozenge contains zinc, along with several herbs.

These lozenges can help soothe a dry throat, as well as boost the immune system.

Zand Echinacea Zinc Herbalozenge Very Cherry is available for purchase here.

An alternative to taking a zinc supplement is ensuring a diet that is rich in zinc. Zinc is present in:

  • oysters, crabs, or lobsters
  • red meat
  • poultry
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • beans
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • dairy products

Zinc is an essential nutrient to the body, helping to aid the immune system and skin, amongst other things.

If a person lacks zinc in their diet, they can take it as a supplement. However, a person should be careful not to exceed the RDA of zinc as too much can cause health issues. A person should always talk to their healthcare provider before taking zinc supplements.

A person who experiences symptoms due to zinc deficiency or too much zinc should speak to their healthcare provider.