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

This article describes what zinc does and its potential benefits and side effects. It also lists some supplements that a person might consider.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Zinc has many uses. As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) note, 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 the senses of taste and smell
  • aiding recovery from the common cold
  • treating diarrhea
  • slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that gradually causes vision loss

Most people in the United States get enough zinc from their food, the NIH reports. But people with limited food intake and people in the following groups may find it difficult:

  • People with digestive disorders or past gastrointestinal surgery: Disorders, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, decrease the amount of zinc the body absorbs and increase the amount lost through urination.
  • People with vegetarian or vegan diets: People with these diets may need 50% more zinc than the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
  • Breastfed infants over 6 months old: Breast milk does not contain enough zinc for an infant older than 6 months. Formulas and pureed meats can provide the required amount.
  • People with alcohol use disorder: Alcohol reduces the amount of zinc that the body absorbs and increases the amount lost through urination.
  • People with sickle cell disease: Research suggests that 44% of children with sickle cell disease have low plasma zinc concentrations. Additionally, 60–⁠70% of adults with sickle cell disease have insufficient amounts of zinc in their bodies.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding people: Pregnancy can cause a zinc deficiency due to the high zinc requirement of a developing fetus. Also, breast milk contains zinc to nourish the baby, leaving less for the body to use.
  • Older adults: Researchers have found that adults aged 60 years or older who do not always eat enough may have a zinc intake of less than half of the RDA. Also, reduced zinc levels in older adults can stem from difficulty eating certain foods or drug interactions.

For more in-depth resources about vitamins, minerals, and supplements, visit our dedicated hub.

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Many zinc supplements are available, and below, we list eight that a person might consider. However, most of these products contain more zinc than the RDA.

The RDA of zinc is 11 milligrams (mg) for adult males and 8 mg for adult females. For pregnant people, the RDA is 11 mg, and for lactating people, it is 12 mg.

The NIH warns against consuming more than 40 mg of zinc per day. Overall, it is best to consult a doctor before taking a zinc supplement.

Best for an NSF-certified product: Thorne Zinc Picolinate 30 mg

  • Age range: No information
  • Type: Capsules
  • Dosage: 30 mg per capsule
  • Active ingredients: Zinc picolinate
  • Pro: Free from most allergens
  • Con: Contains more zinc than the RDA
  • Price: $35 for 180 capsules, $17 for 60 capsules

Thorne Zinc Picolinate contains 30 mg of zinc bound to picolinic acid, an organic acid that helps the body absorb zinc.

According to the company, these capsules are Certified for Sport by NSF International. The company also says that the capsules are free from:

  • artificial flavor
  • soy
  • gluten
  • dairy

A person should take a Thorne Zinc Picolinate capsule once a day or as a doctor recommends.

Best for zinc with vitamin C: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Zinc 30 mg

  • Age range: Adults
  • Type: Capsules
  • Dosage: 30 mg per capsule
  • Active ingredients: Raw, whole-food zinc and vitamin C
  • Pro: Suitable for vegans and contains vitamin C
  • Con: Contains more zinc than the RDA
  • Price: $14.99 for 60 capsules

Vitamin Code Raw Zinc also contains vitamin C to boost its skin and immune system benefits.

The supplement contains no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, or additives and is suitable for vegans.

The company recommends taking 1 capsule twice a day. However, this far exceeds the RDA of zinc. People should consult a healthcare professional before trying this.

Best for zinc and a range of vitamins: Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne 25 mg

  • Age range: Adults
  • Type: Tablets
  • Dosage: 25 mg per tablet
  • Active ingredients: Zinc and vitamins A, B6, C, and E
  • Pro: Contains extra vitamins that may reduce acne
  • Con: Contains more zinc than the RDA
  • Price: from $16.99 for one bottle containing 100 tablets

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

The company recommends taking this twice a day. But as this exceeds the RDA, speak with a healthcare professional first.

The company has a buy one get one free offer on its website.

Best for zinc lozenges: Zand Echinacea Zinc HerbaLozenge Very Cherry 5 mg

  • Age range: No information
  • Type: Lozenges
  • Dosage: 5 mg per lozenge
  • Active ingredients: Zinc
  • Pro: Suitable for people with difficulty swallowing pills
  • Con: Little zinc per lozenge
  • Price: $3.19 for a pack of 15

These lozenges contain zinc and several herbal extracts, such as extracts of echinacea and hibiscus flower.

The lozenges may help soothe a dry throat and boost the immune system. They are gluten-free and contain no genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

People may prefer to take lozenges if they find it difficult to swallow pills.

Best for a subscription: Care/of Zinc 15 mg

  • Age range: No information
  • Type: Capsules
  • Dosage: 15 mg per capsule
  • Active ingredients: Zinc and 2 mg of copper
  • Pro: Contains copper for a balance of minerals
  • Con: Only available with a subscription
  • Price: $7 per month

These Care/of capsules contain zinc and copper to support digestion and the immune system, the company says.

The capsules are suitable for vegans and vegetarians and are non-GMO and gluten-free.

Care/of recommends taking the supplement with a meal.

Best for an easy-to-swallow tablet: MegaFood Zinc

  • Age range: No information
  • Type: Tablets
  • Dosage: 22.5 mg per tablet
  • Active ingredients: Zinc
  • Pro: Coated for easy swallowing
  • Con: Contains yeast
  • Price: $17.99 for a 60-day supply or $27.99 for a 120-day supply

Each tablet contains 22.5 mg of zinc and a blend of organic whole foods, including spinach, parsley leaf, carrot, broccoli, and beetroot.

These tablets are:

Additionally, the tablets have a coating that may make them easier to swallow.

MegaFood recommends taking one tablet at any time of day.

Best for a liquid supplement: NutraChamps Zinc Drops

  • Age range: Adults and children
  • Type: Liquid drops
  • Dosage: 15 mg per serving
  • Active ingredients: Zinc and vitamin C
  • Pro: Easy to take
  • Con: Potentially difficult to measure doses
  • Price: $19.95 a bottle

This product contains zinc and vitamin C in liquid form. Each serving of 4 drops contains 15 mg of zinc.

People can consume the drops directly or add them to a glass of water.

This supplement is suitable for vegans and is non-GMO and organic.

Best for a softgel supplement: Now Zinc Glycinate

  • Age range: Adults
  • Type: Softgels
  • Dosage: 30 mg per softgel
  • Active ingredients: Zinc
  • Pro: One bottle may last 4 months
  • Con: Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans, exceeds the RDA
  • Price: $15.99 for 120 softgels

Each of these softgel supplements contains 30 mg of zinc — more than the RDA. A person should speak with a healthcare professional before using this product.

These softgels are free from:

  • gluten
  • dairy
  • nuts
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • corn

They are also halal and kosher. However, they contain bovine gelatin, making them unsuitable for vegans and vegetarians.

The company recommends taking one softgel per day with a meal.

The following table compares the zinc supplements in this article.

TypeDosageActive ingredientsPrice
Thornecapsules30 mg per capsule• zinc picolinatefrom $17
Garden of Lifecapsules30 mg per capsule• raw, whole food zinc
• vitamin C
$14.99
Puritan’s Pridetablets25 mg per tablet• zinc
• vitamins A, B6, C, and E
from $16.99
Zandlozenges5 mg per lozenge• zinc$3.19
Care/ofcapsules15 mg per capsule• zinc
• 2 mg copper
$7 per month
MegaFoodtablets22.5 mg per tablet• zincfrom $17.99
NutraChampsliquid drops15 mg per serving• zinc
• vitamin C
$19.95
Nowsoftgels30 mg per softgel• zinc$15.99

The RDA of zinc is 11 mg for adult males and 8 mg for adult females. For pregnant people, it is 11 mg, and for lactating people, it is 12 mg.

A person who gets too little zinc from their diet may benefit from taking a zinc supplement.

A 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
  • unexplained weight loss
  • problems with wound healing
  • lowered alertness
  • reduced ability to taste food

Having the right level of zinc in the body can help in these ways:

Boost immunity and reduce inflammation

Zinc is essential for sustaining the immune system. It helps eliminate pathogens, and a zinc deficiency can reduce this capacity. The immune system also needs zinc to produce or activate certain cells.

Meanwhile, zinc can help ease common cold symptoms. Researchers have found that these symptoms eased more quickly for participants who took 13.3 mg of zinc acetate, in a lozenge, every 2–3 hours than for those who did not.

Still, determining the best dosage for people with colds requires further research.

Maintain healthy skin

Zinc is an important nutrient for the skin. Its anti-inflammatory properties may help people with conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and ulcers.

A 2014 review suggests that zinc taken orally may be useful for:

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

Too much zinc can lead to health problems, such as:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a loss of appetite
  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • headaches
  • zinc toxicity, which may result in low copper levels
  • reduced immunity

Different zinc supplements recommend different dosages. It is important to follow the guidance of a healthcare professional and check labels carefully.

As the NIH reports, an adult should consume no more than 40 mg of zinc daily.

Zinc supplements might contain various forms, including:

  • zinc sulfate
  • zinc acetate
  • zinc gluconate

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

  • oysters, crab, and lobster
  • red meat
  • poultry
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • beans
  • nuts
  • whole grains
  • dairy products

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about zinc.

What is the best form of zinc to take as a supplement?

Zinc supplements often contain zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, or zinc acetate.

As the NIH reports, researchers have found no differences in terms of absorption, tolerability, or bioavailability.

How much zinc is too much?

People should not exceed the upper tolerable limit of zinc, and this limit depends on a person’s age.

The table below shows the upper tolerable limits for different age groups.

AgeUpper tolerable limit
0–6 months4 mg
7–12 months5 mg
1–3 years7 mg
4–8 years12 mg
9–13 years23 mg
14–18 years34 mg
19+ years40 mg

What are zinc supplements good for?

Zinc has a range of health benefits, such as:

  • boosting the immune system
  • reducing inflammation
  • supporting and maintaining healthy skin

Be sure not to consume too much zinc, as this can lead to symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, and lowered immunity.

Does zinc taste bad?

People may notice a slight metallic taste after taking a zinc supplement.

However, having a zinc deficiency can lead to a change in taste perception. Individuals who notice a change in how they taste food and drink may wish to consult a doctor to test for zinc deficiency.

Can I add zinc supplements to food?

People should always read the dosage instructions for their supplements.

Some manufacturers recommend taking the zinc supplement with a meal, while others may suggest adding liquid zinc to water.

Zinc is an essential nutrient that supports the immune system and helps reduce inflammation, among other functions.

If a person finds it difficult to get enough zinc from their diet, they might consider a supplement. However, adults should be sure not to take more than 40 mg daily. This limit varies by age group, and we provide more information above.

Too much and too little zinc can each cause health problems, and anyone who experiences symptoms should let a doctor know. Also, consult a healthcare professional before taking a zinc supplement.