Zinc Up for Health! 6 Ways Zinc Supports Health

Zinc is called an “essential trace element” because it's necessary for numerous chemical processes that take place within a cell. It's required for the activity of approximately 100 enzymes and plays a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis, and cell division. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence and is required for a proper sense of taste and smell. To maintain a steady state of zinc, daily intake is required because our bodies don’t have a specialized system for storing zinc.

Let's talk about six health reasons supplemental zinc may be appropriate.

Immune Function and Zinc

The relationship between zinc and the immune system is complex since there are different ways zinc influences the immune system.  

  • Zinc is necessary for immune support inside each and every cell of the body! 
  • Zinc helps the immune system support its innate resistance to pathogens, including secondary pathogens.
  • Consuming zinc by itself is not effective. Rather than getting inside the cells where it’s needed, the zinc remains outside the cell (a little gets in, but not enough). 
  • When a virus lives inside the cells of the body, the zinc must be able to get to it. 
  • Zinc is most effective in combination with a zinc ionophore.

What Is a Zinc Ionophore?

  • It is necessary to transport (aka “push”) zinc inside the cell where it needs to be.
  • Zinc ionophores include Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), quercetin, elderberry, and flavonoids from citrus peels.

There are reliable and relatively consistent data showing zinc is most effective at treating the common cold when taken within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Zinc lozenges are a helpful way to support your immune system.

Lozenges containing zinc gluconate, zinc gluconate-glycine, and in most trials, zinc acetate have been effective; most other forms of zinc and lozenges flavored with citric acid, tartaric acid, sorbitol, or mannitol have been ineffective.

For the alleviation of cold symptoms, lozenges providing 13 to 25 mg of zinc (as zinc gluconate, zinc gluconate-glycine, or zinc acetate) are used every two hours while awake but only for several days. Remember, the best effect is obtained when lozenges are used at the first sign of a drop in your immune system function.

Wound Healing and Zinc

Long ago, during my first dietitian job at a hospital, I handled the nutrition piece within the hospital’s wound care clinic. I learned a lot about the value of eating specific nutrients to promote a normal, healthy healing process of these gnarly open wounds and sores. Zinc was one of those specific nutrients I always suggested the patients take. It’s important in the formation of collagen, a critical component in healing wound, and can enhance the wound-healing process.

Diarrhea and Zinc

Studies in developing countries found zinc may reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea in poorly nourished children, especially those with low zinc levels.

Male Fertility and Zinc

There’s reliable and relatively consistent information showing a zinc deficiency leads to reduced numbers of sperm and impotence in men. Taking zinc may help support normal, healthy sperm quality. The ideal amount of supplemental zinc remains unknown, but some doctors recommend 30 mg two times per day. Long-term zinc supplementation requires 1–2 mg of copper per day to prevent copper deficiency.

Eye Health and Zinc

This eye disease gradually causes vision loss. Research suggests zinc might help keep early age-related macular degeneration from worsening into advanced AMD. More research is needed before doctors can recommend zinc supplements for AMD, but people who have or are developing it might want to talk to their doctor about taking zinc. I like this one-of-a-kind Eye-Adapt blend for eye health, which contains 15 mg of zinc citrate per capsule. 

Stomach Ulcers and Zinc

The healing process of stomach ulcers may be enhanced through treatment with zinc, although more studies are needed to more clearly determine its effects. Most studies report few or no side effects associated with its use.

Recommended Dietary Allowances for Zinc

As suggested by National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements:

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


Prasad AS, Cossack ZT. Zinc supplementation and growth in sickle cell disease. Ann Intern Med 1984;100:367-71.

National Institutes of Health; Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc Fact Sheet for Consumers

Recommended Daily Allowances for Zinc chart: US Dept of Health & Human Services: National Institutes of Health/Office of Dietary Supplements.

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