Zinc: The Ultimate Guide


Zinc, what is it? We know that it is a mineral, but what does it actually contribute to in our bodies? We hear about it a lot nowadays especially in relation to COVID and how it can potentially help combat it. In this guide, we will examine and discuss everything that is needed to know about the immune-boosting mineral. 

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral found in foods such as meat, fish, nuts, and poultry. It essentially helps the body at the cellular level and is used by the body for a variety of things in relation to metabolism. Small amounts are needed for regular functioning and good health. The mineral itself is not readily stored in the body and can thus be taken on a regular basis either through supplements or diet.

What does it do at the “cellular level”?

Zinc essentially helps maintain homeostasis in our bodies and aids in the regulation of a variety of things. It is found in small amounts across cells and can potentially help the immune system to fight off infection and disease, help break down protein, and help maintain DNA or cellular division. In men, it can potentially help with healthy sperm production.

Role in the body

Are there different forms that are more absorbable by the body?

There are indeed different types of the mineral. The differences in the types come at the molecular level and specify the agents binded to them. Similar to Calcium, the amount of elemental zinc available from each variation is what is important and the criteria that should be taken into account the greatest. Some of the most common available forms are zinc Sulfate, Citrate, Picolinate, Acetate, Gluconate, and Orotate. Each is also absorbed differently and sulfate is claimed to be least absorbable while picolinate is the most absorbed. It all varies depending on the individual as certain forms can cause stomach discomfort. 

Zinc Acetate: Acetate benefits immune health and can alleviate symptoms associated with a cold. 

Zinc Sulfate: Sulfate or otherwise known as “White Vitriol” is another form of zinc that is mainly used for overall immune defense or zinc deficiency. It can also potentially be used to treat acne. 

Zinc Citrate: Citrate is paired with Citric Acid and is proven to be one of the better absorbed variations alongside Picolinate and Gluconate. 

Zinc Picolinate: This variation is claimed to be better absorbed than the rest as it is paired with Picolinic acid. 

Zinc Gluconate: Gluconate is another one of the better absorbed forms and is comparable in relation to that to citrate and picolinate. 

Zinc Orotate: Orotate is just Orotic acid and is claimed to help with overall absorption. 

Foods High in Zinc

How do I get Zinc?

Adequate amounts are best attained through everyday diet. Eating greens or being on a vegetarian and meat diet have proven to provide the most bioavailable sources of zinc. Zinc is also primarily found amongst red meat, poultry, and fish. Whole grains have also been found to contain higher levels of zinc compared to other grains. Supplements are also available sources of zinc but should first be discussed with a medical professional before intaking. Zinc deficiency is rare but probable nonetheless and is associated with impaired growth, development, proper immune function, etc. More immediate effects of zinc deficiency include diarrhea, weight loss, loss of appetite, etc. 

How much do I need? 

Dosages vary according to age and individuals. Alcoholics and individuals with intestinal or digestive problems are informed to take extra amounts of zinc as absorption is usually hindered for the latter, and excreted through the urine for the foremost. Adequate amounts can be attained through dietary foods or supplementation. If choosing supplementation, consult with a medical professional as excess intake can result in nausea, stomach pains, etc. Recommended doses are listed below but for more information, visit the National Institute Health Website

AgeRecommended Dose of in milligrams (mg)
Birth-6 months2 mg
7-12 months3 mg
1-3 years 3 mg
4-8 years5 mg
9-13 years8 mg
14-18 years (boys)11 mg
14-18 years (girls)9 mg
Adults (men)11 mg
Adults (women)8 mg

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