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Nutritional Supplement

Zinc

  • Skin Protection

    Acne Vulgaris

    Several double-blind trials indicate that taking zinc reduces acne severity. Long-term use requires 1 to 2 mg of copper per day to prevent copper deficiency.
    Acne Vulgaris
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    Several double-blind trials indicate that zinc supplements reduce the severity of acne.1,2,3,4 In one double-blind trial,5 though not in another,6 zinc was found to be as effective as oral antibiotic therapy. Doctors sometimes suggest that people with acne take 30 mg of zinc two or three times per day for a few months, then 30 mg per day thereafter. It often takes 12 weeks before any improvement is seen. Long-term zinc supplementation requires 1–2 mg of copper per day to prevent copper deficiency.

    Wound Healing

    Zinc is a component of enzymes needed to repair wounds, and even a mild deficiency can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage.
    Wound Healing
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    Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some that are needed to repair wounds. Even a mild deficiency of zinc can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage, as well as from more serious trauma.7,8 One controlled trial found the healing time of a surgical wound was reduced by 43% with oral supplementation of 50 mg of zinc three times per day, in the form of zinc sulfate.9

    Whether oral zinc helps tissue healing when no actual zinc deficiency exists is unclear,10 but doctors often recommend 30 mg of zinc per day for four to six weeks to aid in the healing of wounds. Topical zinc-containing treatments, on the other hand, have improved healing of skin wounds even when there is no deficiency.11,12 Long-term oral zinc supplementation must be accompanied by copper supplementation to prevent a zinc-induced copper deficiency. Typically, if 30 mg of zinc are taken each day, it should be accompanied by 2 mg of copper. If 60 mg of zinc are used, it should be accompanied by 3 mg of copper each day.

    Warts

    In one study, supplementing with zinc, resulted in complete disappearance of warts in 87% of people treated.
    Warts
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    In a double-blind study, supplementation with oral zinc, in the form of zinc sulfate, for two months resulted in complete disappearance of warts in 87% of people treated, whereas none of those receiving a placebo improved.13 The amount of zinc used was based on body weight, with a maximum of 135 mg per day. Similar results were seen in another double-blind study.14 These large amounts of zinc should be used under the supervision of a doctor. Side effects included nausea, vomiting, and mild abdominal pain.

    Eczema

    In a preliminary study, eczema severity and itching improved significantly more in the children who received zinc than in the control group.
    Eczema
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    In a preliminary study, children (average age, 6 years) with eczema who had a low concentration of zinc in their hair were randomly assigned to receive 12 mg of zinc per day by mouth or no supplemental zinc (control group) for 8 weeks. Eczema severity and itching improved significantly more in the children who received zinc than in the control group.15 The study did not examine whether children with normal hair zinc levels would benefit from supplementation.

    Acne Rosacea

    In a double-blind study, zinc supplements decreased the rosacea severity by about 75%. Long-term zinc users should also take a copper supplement to prevent deficiency.
    Acne Rosacea
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    In a double-blind study, supplementing with zinc (23 mg three times per day for three months) decreased the severity of rosacea by about 75%, whereas no improvement occurred in the placebo group. Mild gastrointestinal upset was reported by 12% of the people taking zinc, but no other significant side effects occurred.16 Long-term zinc supplementation should be accompanied by a copper supplement, in order to prevent zinc-induced copper deficiency.

    Skin Ulcers

    Supplementing with zinc may help some types of skin ulcer by facilitating tissue growth.
    Skin Ulcers
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    Zinc plays an important role in tissue growth processes important for skin ulcer healing. One study reported that patients with pressure ulcers had lower blood levels of zinc and iron than did patients without pressure ulcers,17 and preliminary reports suggested zinc supplements could help some types of skin ulcer.18 Supplementation with 150 mg of zinc per day improved healing in a preliminary study of elderly patients suffering from chronic leg ulcers.19 Double-blind trials using 135 to 150 mg of zinc daily have shown improvement20 only in patients with low blood zinc levels,21 and no improvement in leg ulcer healing.22,23 A double-blind trial of 150 mg zinc per day in people with skin ulcers due to sickle cell anemia found that the healing rate was almost three times faster in the zinc group than in the placebo group after six months.24 Lastly, a preliminary study of patients with skin ulcers due to leprosy found that 50 mg of zinc per day in addition to anti-leprosy medication resulted in complete healing in most patients within 6 to 12 weeks.25 Long-term zinc supplementation at these levels should be accompanied by supplements of copper and perhaps calcium, iron, and magnesium. Large amounts of zinc (over 50 mg per day) should only be taken under the supervision of a doctor.

    Topically applied zinc using zinc-containing bandages has improved healing of leg ulcers in double-blind studies of both zinc-deficient26 and elderly individuals.27 Most controlled comparison studies have reported that these bandages are no more effective than other bandages used in the conventional treatment of skin ulcers,28,29 but one controlled trial found non-elastic zinc bandages superior to alginate dressings or zinc-containing elastic stockinettes.30 Two controlled trials of zinc-containing tape for foot ulcers due to leprosy concluded that zinc tape was similarly effective, but more convenient than conventional dressings.31,32

    Dermatitis Herpetiformis

    Supplementing with zinc can counteract the nutrient deficiency that often occurs as a result of malabsorption.
    Dermatitis Herpetiformis
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    People with DH frequently have mild malabsorption (difficulty absorbing certain nutrients) associated with low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) and inflammation of the stomach lining (atrophic gastritis).33 Mild malabsorption may result in anemia34 and nutritional deficiencies of iron, folic acid,35,36vitamin B12,37,34 and zinc.39,35,36 More severe malabsorption may result in loss of bone mass.42 Additional subtle deficiencies of vitamins and minerals are possible, but have not been investigated. Therefore, some doctors recommend people with DH have their nutritional status checked regularly with laboratory studies. These doctors may also recommend multivitamin-mineral supplements and, to correct the low stomach acid, supplemental betaine HCl (a source of hydrochloric acid).

  • Pain Management

    Wound Healing

    Zinc is a component of enzymes needed to repair wounds, and even a mild deficiency can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage.
    Wound Healing
    ×
     

    Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some that are needed to repair wounds. Even a mild deficiency of zinc can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage, as well as from more serious trauma.40,41 One controlled trial found the healing time of a surgical wound was reduced by 43% with oral supplementation of 50 mg of zinc three times per day, in the form of zinc sulfate.42

    Whether oral zinc helps tissue healing when no actual zinc deficiency exists is unclear,43 but doctors often recommend 30 mg of zinc per day for four to six weeks to aid in the healing of wounds. Topical zinc-containing treatments, on the other hand, have improved healing of skin wounds even when there is no deficiency.44,45 Long-term oral zinc supplementation must be accompanied by copper supplementation to prevent a zinc-induced copper deficiency. Typically, if 30 mg of zinc are taken each day, it should be accompanied by 2 mg of copper. If 60 mg of zinc are used, it should be accompanied by 3 mg of copper each day.

    Sprains and Strains

    Zinc helps with healing. Even a mild deficiency can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage and more serious trauma.
    Sprains and Strains
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    Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some that are needed to repair wounds. Even a mild deficiency of zinc can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage as well as from more serious trauma.46 Trace minerals, such as manganese, copper, and silicon are also known to be important in the biochemistry of tissue healing.47,48,49,50 However, there have been no controlled studies of people with sprains or strains to explore the effect of deficiency of these minerals, or of oral supplementation, on the rate of healing.

  • Joint Health

    Osteoarthritis

    A combination of boswellia, ashwagandha, turmeric, and zinc effectively treated pain and stiffness in one study, without the stomach irritation that is a common side effect of NSAIDs.
    Osteoarthritis
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    Boswellia has anti-inflammatory properties that have been compared to those of the NSAIDs used by many for inflammatory conditions.51 Clinical trials have found that boswellia is more effective than a placebo for relieving pain and swelling and preventing loss of function in people with osteoarthritis.52 Boswellia has also been found to be as effective as the anti-inflammatory drug valdecoxib (Bextra). In addition, while the improvements occurred more slowly in the boswellia group than in the valdecoxib group, they persisted for a longer period of time after treatment was discontinued.53 One clinical trial found that a combination of boswellia, ashwagandha, turmeric, and zinc effectively treated pain and stiffness associated with OA but did not improve joint health, according to X-rays of the affected joint.54 Unlike NSAIDs, long-term use of boswellia does not lead to irritation or ulceration of the stomach.

    Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Deficient zinc levels have been reported in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Some trials have found that supplementing with zinc reduces rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
    Rheumatoid Arthritis
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    Deficient zinc levels have been reported in people with RA.55 Some trials have found that zinc reduced RA symptoms,56 but others have not.57,58 Some suggest that zinc might only help those who are zinc-deficient,59 and, although there is no universally accepted test for zinc deficiency, some doctors check white-blood-cell zinc levels.

  • Digestive Support

    Peptic Ulcer

    Supplementing with zinc may help speed the repair of damaged stomach tissue.
    Peptic Ulcer
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    Zinc is also needed for the repair of damaged tissue and has protected against stomach ulceration in animal studies.60 In Europe, zinc combined with acexamic acid, an anti-inflammatory substance, is used as a drug in the treatment of peptic ulcers.61 In a small controlled trial, high amounts of zinc accelerated the healing of gastric ulcers compared with placebo.62 Some doctors suspect that such an exceptionally high intake of zinc may be unnecessary, suggesting instead that people with ulcers wishing to take zinc supplements use only 25 to 50 mg of zinc per day. Even at these lower levels, 1 to 3 mg of copper per day must be taken to avoid copper deficiency that would otherwise be induced by the zinc supplementation.

    Celiac Disease

    The malabsorption that occurs in celiac disease can lead to multiple nutritional deficiencies. Supplementing with zinc may correct a deficiency.
    Celiac Disease
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    The malabsorption that occurs in celiac disease can lead to multiple nutritional deficiencies. The most common nutritional problems in people with celiac disease include deficiencies of essential fatty acids, iron, vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, and folic acid.63Zinc malabsorption also occurs frequently in celiac disease64 and may result in zinc deficiency, even in people who are otherwise in remission.65 People with newly diagnosed celiac disease should be assessed for nutritional deficiencies by a doctor. Celiac patients who have not yet completely recovered should supplement with a high-potency multivitamin-mineral. Some patients may require even higher amounts of some of these vitamins and minerals—an issue that should be discussed with their healthcare practitioner. Evidence of a nutrient deficiency in a celiac patient is a clear indication for supplementation with that nutrient.

    After commencement of a gluten-free diet, overall nutritional status gradually improves. However, deficiencies of some nutrients may persist, even in people who are strictly avoiding gluten. For example, magnesium deficiency was found in 8 of 23 adults with celiac disease who had been following a gluten-free diet and were symptom-free. When these adults were supplemented with magnesium for two years, their bone mineral density increased significantly.66

    Peptic Ulcer

    Studies have shown that a zinc salt of the amino acid carnosine protects against ulcer formation and promotes the healing of existing ulcers.
    Peptic Ulcer
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    Experimental animal studies have shown that a zinc salt of the amino acid carnosine exerts significant protection against ulcer formation and promotes the healing of existing ulcers.67,68 However, because zinc by itself has been shown to be helpful against peptic ulcer, it is not known how much of the beneficial effect was due to the carnosine.69,70 Clinical studies in humans demonstrated that this compound can help eradicate H. pylori, an organism that has been linked to peptic ulcer and stomach cancer.71 The amount of the zinc carnosine complex used in research studies for eradication of H. pylori is 150 mg twice daily.

    Crohn’s Disease

    Zinc is needed to repair intestinal cells damaged by Crohn’s disease. Supplementation may offset some of the deficiency caused by Crohn’s-related malabsorption.
    Crohn’s Disease
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    Crohn’s disease often leads to malabsorption. As a result, deficiencies of many nutrients are common. For this reason, it makes sense for people with Crohn’s disease to take a high potency multivitamin-mineral supplement. In particular, deficiencies in zinc, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron have been reported.72,73,74 Zinc, folic acid, and vitamin B12 are all needed to repair intestinal cells damaged by Crohn’s disease. Some doctors recommend 25 to 50 mg of zinc (balanced with 2 to 4 mg of copper), 800 mcg of folic acid, and 800 mcg of vitamin B12 daily. Iron status should be evaluated by a doctor before considering supplementation.

    Gastritis

    Zinc is helpful in healing peptic ulcers, which can occur in some types of gastritis.
    Gastritis
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    Zinc and vitamin A, nutrients that aid in healing, are commonly used to help people with peptic ulcers. For example, the ulcers of people taking 50 mg of zinc three times per day healed three times faster than those of people who took placebo.75 Since some types of gastritis can progress to peptic ulcer, it is possible that taking it may be useful. Nevertheless, the research does not yet show that zinc specifically helps people with gastritis. The amount of zinc used in this study is very high compared with what most people take (15–40 mg per day). Even at these lower levels, it is necessary to take 1–3 mg of copper per day to avoid a zinc-induced copper deficiency.

  • Oral Health

    Cold Sores

    Topically applied zinc appears to inhibit the replication of the herpes virus and help prevent future outbreaks. Use topical zinc only under a doctor’s supervision.
    Cold Sores
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    Zinc preparations have been shown to inhibit the replication of herpes simplex in the test tube.76 In one study, people with recurrent herpes simplex infections applied a zinc sulfate solution daily to the sores. After healing occurred, the frequency of applications was reduced to once a week for a month, then to twice a month. During an observation period of 16 to 23 months, none of these people experienced a recurrence of their cold sores.77

    Zinc oxide, the only commercially available form of zinc for topical application, is probably ineffective as a treatment for herpes simplex.78 Other forms of topical zinc can be obtained by prescription, through a compounding pharmacist. However, because an excessive concentration of zinc may cause skin irritation, topical zinc should be used only with the supervision of a doctor knowledgeable in its use.

    Canker Sores

    Zinc deficiency has been linked with recurrent canker sores, so treating the deficiency may lead to relief. Long-term zinc supplementation requires extra copper to avoid deficiency.
    Canker Sores
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    Zinc deficiency has also been linked with recurrent canker sores in preliminary studies79 and in one case report.80 A preliminary trial found that supplementation with up to 150 mg of zinc per day reduced recurrences of canker sores by 50 to 100%; participants who were zinc deficient experienced the most consistent benefit.81 However, a double-blind trial (that did not test people for zinc deficiency) did not find zinc supplements helpful for recurrent canker sores.82

    Gingivitis

    One trial found that using a toothpaste containing bloodroot and zinc reduced gingivitis significantly better than placebo.
    Gingivitis
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    Bloodroot contains alkaloids, principally sanguinarine, that are sometimes used in toothpaste and other oral hygiene products because they inhibit oral bacteria.83,84 Sanguinarine-containing toothpastes and mouth rinses should be used according to manufacturer’s directions. A six-month, double-blind trial found that use of a bloodroot and zinc toothpaste reduced gingivitis significantly better than placebo.85 However, a similar study was unable to replicate these results.86 Thus, at present, it is unknown who will respond to bloodroot toothpaste and who will not. Concerns also exist about the long-term safety of bloodroot.

  • Immune System Support

    Cold Sores

    Topically applied zinc appears to inhibit the replication of the herpes virus and help prevent future outbreaks. Use topical zinc only under a doctor’s supervision.
    Cold Sores
    ×
     

    Zinc preparations have been shown to inhibit the replication of herpes simplex in the test tube.87 In one study, people with recurrent herpes simplex infections applied a zinc sulfate solution daily to the sores. After healing occurred, the frequency of applications was reduced to once a week for a month, then to twice a month. During an observation period of 16 to 23 months, none of these people experienced a recurrence of their cold sores.88

    Zinc oxide, the only commercially available form of zinc for topical application, is probably ineffective as a treatment for herpes simplex.89 Other forms of topical zinc can be obtained by prescription, through a compounding pharmacist. However, because an excessive concentration of zinc may cause skin irritation, topical zinc should be used only with the supervision of a doctor knowledgeable in its use.

    Infection

    Zinc deficiencies can impair immune function. Supplementing with zinc has been shown to increase immune function in healthy people. Zinc lozenges have been found helpful in against the common cold.
    Infection
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    Marginal deficiencies of zinc result in immune function impairments.90 In a double-blind study of healthy elderly people, supplementing with 45 mg of zinc per day for one year significantly reduced the frequency of infections.91 Some doctors recommend lower amounts of supplemental zinc for people experiencing recurrent infections, such as 25 mg per day for adults and even lower amounts for children (depending on body weight). Zinc lozenges have been found helpful in some studies for the common cold. Long-term zinc supplementation should in most cases be accompanied by a copper supplement in order to prevent zinc-induced copper deficiency.

    HIV and AIDS Support

    Zinc levels are frequently low in people with HIV infection. Zinc supplements have been shown to reduce the number of infections in people with AIDS.
    HIV and AIDS Support
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    Blood levels of both zinc92 and selenium93 are frequently low in people with HIV infection. Zinc supplements (45 mg per day) have been shown to reduce the number of infections in people with AIDS.94 Zinc supplementation (12 mg per day for women, 15 mg per day for men) also slowed the decline in immune function in HIV-infected adults with low blood levels of zinc.95

    Infectious Diarrhea

    Two of the nutrients that may not be absorbed efficiently as a result of diarrhea are zinc and vitamin A, both needed to fight infections.
    Infectious Diarrhea
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    Two of the nutrients that may not be absorbed efficiently as a result of diarrhea are zinc and vitamin A, both needed to fight infections. In third-world countries, supplementation with zinc and vitamin A has led to a reduction in, or prevention of, infectious diarrhea in children.96 There is evidence that even children who are not zinc-deficient could benefit from zinc supplementation during an episode of infectious diarrhea, if the diarrhea is being caused by certain specific organisms, such as the organism that causes cholera or some strains of E. coli.97

    Immune Function

    Zinc supplements have been reported to increase immune function. Some doctors recommend zinc supplements for people with recurrent infections.
    Immune Function
    ×

    Most,98,99 but not all,100 double-blind studies have shown that elderly people have better immune function and reduced infection rates when taking a multiple vitamin-mineral formula. In one double-blind trial, supplements of 100 mcg per day of selenium and 20 mg per day of zinc, with or without additional vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, reduced infections in elderly people, though vitamins without minerals had no effect.101 Burn victims have also experienced fewer infections after receiving trace mineral supplements in double-blind research.102 These studies suggest that trace minerals may be the most important micronutrients for enhancing immunity and preventing infections in the elderly.

    Zinc supplements have been reported to increase immune function.103,104 This effect may be especially important in the elderly according to double-blind studies.105,101 Some doctors recommend zinc supplements for people with recurrent infections, suggesting 25 mg per day for adults and lower amounts for children (depending on body weight). However, too much zinc (300 mg per day) has been reported to impair immune function.107

    While zinc lozenges have been shown to be effective for reducing the symptoms and duration of the common cold in some controlled studies, it is not clear whether this effect is due to an enhancement of immune function or to the direct effect of zinc on the viruses themselves.108

    Pre- and Post-Surgery Health

    Zinc is important for proper immune system function and wound healing. Zinc supplements taken before surgery may prevent zinc deficiency and promote healing.
    Pre- and Post-Surgery Health
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    Zinc is a mineral nutrient important for proper immune system function and wound healing.108 One study found most surgery patients recovering at home had low dietary intakes of zinc.109 Low blood levels of zinc have been reported in patients after lung surgery.110,111 In one study this deficiency lasted for up to seven days after surgery and was associated with higher risk of pneumonia,110 while another study found an association between post-operative zinc deficiency and fatigue.111 Poor post-operative wound healing is also more common in people with zinc deficiency.114 Zinc supplements given to patients before surgery prevented zinc deficiency in one study, but the effect of these supplements on post-surgical health was not evaluated.115

  • Healthy Pregnancy and New Baby

    Birth Defects

    Many doctors recommend a zinc-containing multivitamin to all women of childbearing age who may become pregnant for its potential role in preventing neural tube defects.
    Birth Defects
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    In a preliminary study, women with the highest total dietary zinc intake before pregnancy (including zinc from both food and supplements) had a 35% decreased risk of having an NTD-affected pregnancy.114 However, another preliminary study found no association between blood levels of zinc in pregnant women and the incidence of NTDs.115 Zinc supplementation (15 mg per day) is considered safe for pregnant women. Given its safety and potential role in preventing NTDs, a zinc-containing multivitamin is recommended by many doctors to all women of childbearing age who may become pregnant.

    Pregnancy and Postpartum Support

    In one study, women who used a zinc-containing nutritional supplement before and after conception had a 36% decreased chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
    Pregnancy and Postpartum Support
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    In a preliminary study, pregnant women who used a zinc-containing nutritional supplement in the three months before and after conception had a 36% decreased chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect, and women who had the highest dietary zinc intake (but took no vitamin supplement) had a 30% decreased risk.116

    Gestational Hypertension

    In one study, supplementing with zinc reduced the incidence of gestational hypertension in a group of pregnant Hispanic women who were not zinc deficient.
    Gestational Hypertension
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    Zinc supplementation (20 mg per day) was reported to reduce the incidence of GH in one double-blind trial studying a group of low-income Hispanic pregnant women who were not zinc deficient.117

  • Blood Sugar and Diabetes Support

    Type 2 Diabetes

    People with type 2 diabetes, especially those being treated with anti-diabetes medications, tend to be zinc deficient. In those with zinc deficiency, supplementation may improve blood glucose regulation and reduce insulin resistance.
    Type 2 Diabetes
    ×

    Zinc is important for normal pancreatic insulin production and release. Zinc deficiency is very common in people with type 2 diabetes and may be related to genetic susceptibility.118 In one study, zinc deficiency was present in 77% of subjects being treated with metformin (a widely used anti-diabetes drug) and 90% of subjects being treated with both metformin and glimepiride (another anti-diabetes drug).119 A growing body of evidence shows zinc supplementation may be helpful in preventing and treating type 2 diabetes, but only those with poor zinc status appear to benefit.120

    In a placebo-controlled trial that included 200 participants with prediabetes, average zinc levels were noted to be lower than normal and taking 20 mg of zinc per day for one year resulted in reduced blood glucose, cholesterol, and LDL-cholesterol levels, and improved the fasting response to glucose ingestion (glucose tolerance), measures of insulin resistance, and pancreatic cell function. Moreover, 25% of those in given placebo progressed to type 2 diabetes, while only 11% of those given zinc developed diabetes.121 Nevertheless, the relationship between zinc status and type 2 diabetes risk remains unclear, as some research has noted a correlation between higher blood zinc levels and increased diabetes risk.122

    A controlled trial in people with type 2 diabetes with urinary protein loss (a sign of diabetes-related kidney damage) found that adding 50 mg of zinc (as zinc sulphate) to their diabetes treatment for 12 weeks improved blood glucose and triglyceride levels and reduced urinary protein loss.123 Studies have also shown that supplementing with a combination of melatonin (10 mg per day) plus zinc (50 mg per day [as zinc acetate]), can improve blood glucose and lipid levels and reduce urinary protein loss in people with type 2 diabetes.124,125

    Many doctors recommend that people with type 2 diabetes and low zinc levels supplement with 15 to 25 mg of zinc per day to normalize zinc levels. Taking high doses of supplemental zinc long term increases the risk of copper deficiency. Most multivitamin-mineral supplements provide adequate copper to prevent deficiency.

    Metabolic Syndrome

    Zinc is important for metabolic health, but there are risks associated with both too little and too much zinc.
    Metabolic Syndrome
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    Studies examining the relationship between zinc status and metabolic syndrome have yielded mixed findings.126 A study based on data from 1,088 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study (NHANES) from 2011–2014 found a correlation between high zinc levels and increased risk of metabolic syndrome.127 However, according to a meta-analysis of 20 controlled trials, zinc supplementation appears to have metabolic benefits such as improving blood glucose control and triglyceride and cholesterol levels.128 Another research review noted zinc supplements have a positive impact on blood glucose control in those with type 2 diabetes who have zinc deficiency.126 Taken together, the research suggests the importance of avoiding zinc deficiency and excess for preventing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

    Hypoglycemia

    Zinc helps control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, it might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well.
    Hypoglycemia
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    Research has shown that supplementing with chromium (200 mcg per day)129 or magnesium (340 mg per day)130 can prevent blood sugar levels from falling excessively in people with hypoglycemia. Niacinamide (vitamin B3) has also been found to be helpful for hypoglycemic people.131 Other nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6, may help control blood sugar levels in diabetics.132 Since there are similarities in the way the body regulates high and low blood sugar levels, these nutrients might be helpful for hypoglycemia as well, although the amounts needed for that purpose are not known.

    Type 1 Diabetes

    Supplementing with zinc may lower blood sugar levels and improve immune function in people with type 1 diabetes.
    Type 1 Diabetes
    ×

    People with type 1 diabetes may be more likely to be zinc-deficient than their healthy counterparts. Low zinc status leads to impaired immune function and increased oxidative stress and has been linked to poorer glucose control.133,134 Zinc supplements have been found to increase antioxidant capacity and reduce lipid peroxidation in people with type 1 diabetes.135

    Despite evidence that zinc may be beneficial in people with type 1 diabetes, some doctors remain skeptical of high doses due to one 1994 study in which zinc supplementation, at a dose of 50 mg per day for 28 days, increased glycosylation (glucose-induced protein damage).136 This trial is hard to evaluate because zinc supplementation increases the life of blood cells and such an effect artificially increases the lab test results for glycosylation. In fact, laboratory studies suggest zinc can inhibit glycation.137,138 Until this issue is resolved, those with type 1 diabetes should consult a doctor before considering high-dose supplementation with zinc.

  • Children's Health

    Acrodermatitis

    Supplementing with the correct amount of zinc can completely resolve hereditary acrodermatitis enteropathica
    Acrodermatitis
    ×
     

    Supplementation with zinc brings about complete remission in hereditary acrodermatitis enteropathica. Zinc supplements in the amount of 30 to 150 mg per day are used by people with this condition.139 People with acrodermatitis enteropathica need to be monitored by a healthcare professional to ensure that their level of zinc supplementation is adequate and that the zinc supplements are not inducing a copper deficiency.

    Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder

    In one study, children with ADHD who received zinc showed significantly greater behavioral improvement, compared with children who received a placebo.
    Attention Deficit–Hyperactivity Disorder
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    In a double-blind study, children with ADHD who received 15 mg of zinc per day for six weeks showed significantly greater behavioral improvement, compared with children who received a placebo.140 This study was conducted in Iran, and zinc deficiency has been found to be quite common in certain parts of that country. It is not clear, therefore, to what extent the results of this study apply to children living in other countries.

    Childhood Diseases

    Zinc is a mineral antioxidant nutrient that the immune system requires. Supplementing with it increases immune activity in people with certain illnesses.
    Childhood Diseases
    ×
     

    Zinc is another mineral antioxidant nutrient that the immune system requires. Zinc deficiency results in lowered immune defenses, and zinc supplementation increases immune activity in people with certain illnesses.141 As with vitamin A, zinc levels have been observed to fall during the early stages of measles infection and to return to normal several days later.142 There is evidence that zinc supplements are helpful in specific viral infections,143,144,145 but there are no data on the effect of zinc on childhood exanthemous infections.

    Ear Infections

    Zinc stimulates immune function, so some doctors recommend zinc supplements for people with recurrent ear infections.
    Ear Infections
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    Zinc supplements have also been reported to increase immune function.146,147 As a result, some doctors recommend zinc supplements for people with recurrent ear infections, suggesting 25 mg per day for adults and lower amounts for children. For example, a 30-pound child might be given 5 mg of zinc per day while suffering from OM. Nonetheless, zinc supplementation has not been studied in people with ear infections.

    Osgood-Schlatter Disease

    Some doctors have reported good results using a combination of zinc, manganese, and vitamin B6 for people with Osgood-Schlatter disease.
    Osgood-Schlatter Disease
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    Another group of doctors has reported good results using a combination of zinc, manganese, and vitamin B6 for people with Osgood-Schlatter disease; however, the amounts of these supplements were not mentioned in the report.148 Most physicians would consider reasonable daily amounts of these nutrients for adolescents to be 15 mg of zinc, 5 to 10 mg of manganese, and 25 mg of vitamin B6. Larger amounts might be used with medical supervision.

  • Men's Health

    Male Infertility

    Zinc deficiency leads to reduced numbers of sperm and impotence in men. Taking zinc may correct this problem and improve sperm quality.
    Male Infertility
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    Zinc deficiency leads to reduced numbers of sperm and impotence in men.149 The correlation between blood levels of zinc and sperm quality remains controversial. Infertile men have been reported to have lower levels of zinc in their semen, than do men with normal fertility.150 Similarly, men with normal sperm density tend to have higher amounts of zinc in their semen, than do men with low sperm counts.151 However, other studies have found that a high concentration of zinc in the semen is related to decreased sperm motility in infertile men.152,153 A few studies have shown that oral zinc supplementation improves both sperm count154,155 motility,154,157 and the physical characteristics of sperm in some groups of infertile men.158 For infertile men with low semen zinc levels, a preliminary trial found that zinc supplements (240 mg per day) increased sperm counts and possibly contributed to successful impregnation by 3 of the 11 men.159 However, these studies all included small numbers of volunteers, and thus the impact of their conclusions is limited. In a controlled trial, 100 men with low sperm motility received either 57 mg of zinc twice daily or a placebo.160 After three months, there was significant improvement in sperm quality, sperm count, sperm motility, and fertilizing capacity of the sperm. 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.

  • Ear Health Support

    Tinnitus

    For people deficient in zinc, supplementing with zinc may help improve their tinnitus.
    Tinnitus
    ×

    Zinc supplements have been used to treat people who had both tinnitus and hearing loss (usually age-related). Of those who had initially low blood levels of zinc, about 25% experienced an improvement in tinnitus after taking zinc (90–150 mg per day for three to six months).160 Such large amounts of zinc should be monitored by a doctor. Two controlled clinical trials161,161 found no benefit from zinc supplementation (66 mg per day in one double-blind trial) in people with tinnitus. However, participants in these studies were not zinc deficient. Preliminary research suggests that zinc supplementation is only helpful for tinnitus in people who are zinc deficient.163 A doctor can measure blood levels of zinc.

    Ear Infections

    Zinc stimulates immune function, so some doctors recommend zinc supplements for people with recurrent ear infections.
    Ear Infections
    ×
     

    Zinc supplements have also been reported to increase immune function.163,164 As a result, some doctors recommend zinc supplements for people with recurrent ear infections, suggesting 25 mg per day for adults and lower amounts for children. For example, a 30-pound child might be given 5 mg of zinc per day while suffering from OM. Nonetheless, zinc supplementation has not been studied in people with ear infections.

  • Eye Health Support

    Night Blindness

    A lack of zinc may reduce the activity of retinol dehydrogenase, an enzyme needed to help vitamin A work in the eye. Zinc helps night blindness in people who are zinc-deficient.
    Night Blindness
    ×
     

    Dietary zinc deficiency is common, and a lack of zinc may reduce the activity of retinol dehydrogenase, an enzyme needed to help vitamin A work in the eye. Zinc helps night blindness in people who are zinc-deficient;165 therefore, many physicians suggest 15 to 30 mg of zinc per day to support healthy vision. Because long-term zinc supplementation may reduce copper levels, 1 to 2 mg of copper per day (depending on the amount of zinc used) is usually recommended for people who are supplementing with zinc for more than a few weeks.

    Macular Degeneration

    Two important enzymes in the retina that are needed for vision require zinc. In one trial, zinc supplementation significantly reduced the rate of visual loss in people with macular degeneration.
    Macular Degeneration
    ×
     

    Two important enzymes in the retina that are needed for vision require zinc. In a double-blind trial, supplementation with 45 mg of zinc per day for one to two years significantly reduced the rate of visual loss in people with macular degeneration.166 However, in another double-blind trial, supplementation with the same amount of zinc did not prevent vision loss among people with a particular type of macular degeneration (the exudative form).167

  • Healthy Aging/Senior Health

    Night Blindness

    A lack of zinc may reduce the activity of retinol dehydrogenase, an enzyme needed to help vitamin A work in the eye. Zinc helps night blindness in people who are zinc-deficient.
    Night Blindness
    ×
     

    Dietary zinc deficiency is common, and a lack of zinc may reduce the activity of retinol dehydrogenase, an enzyme needed to help vitamin A work in the eye. Zinc helps night blindness in people who are zinc-deficient;168 therefore, many physicians suggest 15 to 30 mg of zinc per day to support healthy vision. Because long-term zinc supplementation may reduce copper levels, 1 to 2 mg of copper per day (depending on the amount of zinc used) is usually recommended for people who are supplementing with zinc for more than a few weeks.

    Macular Degeneration

    Two important enzymes in the retina that are needed for vision require zinc. In one trial, zinc supplementation significantly reduced the rate of visual loss in people with macular degeneration.
    Macular Degeneration
    ×
     

    Two important enzymes in the retina that are needed for vision require zinc. In a double-blind trial, supplementation with 45 mg of zinc per day for one to two years significantly reduced the rate of visual loss in people with macular degeneration.169 However, in another double-blind trial, supplementation with the same amount of zinc did not prevent vision loss among people with a particular type of macular degeneration (the exudative form).170

  • Women's Health

    Pregnancy and Postpartum Support

    In one study, women who used a zinc-containing nutritional supplement before and after conception had a 36% decreased chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect.
    Pregnancy and Postpartum Support
    ×
     

    In a preliminary study, pregnant women who used a zinc-containing nutritional supplement in the three months before and after conception had a 36% decreased chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect, and women who had the highest dietary zinc intake (but took no vitamin supplement) had a 30% decreased risk.171

    Bulimia

    People with bulimia may be deficient in zinc, in which case supplementing with the mineral can restore levels and improve symptoms.
    Bulimia
    ×
    Zinc deficiency has been detected in people with anorexia or bulimia in most,172,173 though not all,174 studies. In addition, some of the manifestations of zinc deficiency, such as reduced appetite, taste, and smell, are similar to symptoms observed in some cases of anorexia or bulimia.175
  • Prostate Support

    Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

    Zinc has been shown to reduce prostate size in some studies. If you are taking 30 mg or more of zinc per day, most doctors recommend adding 2 to 3 mg of copper to avoid deficiency.
    Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
    ×
     

    Prostatic secretions are known to contain a high concentration of zinc; that observation suggests that zinc plays a role in normal prostate function. In one preliminary study, 19 men with benign prostatic hyperplasia took 150 mg of zinc daily for two months, and then 50 to 100 mg daily. In 74% of the men, the prostate became smaller.176 Because this study did not include a control group, improvements may have been due to a placebo effect. Zinc also reduced prostatic size in an animal study but only when given by local injection.177 Although the research supporting the use of zinc is weak, many doctors recommend its use. Because supplementing with large amounts of zinc (such as 30 mg per day or more) may potentially lead to copper deficiency, most doctors recommend taking 2 to 3 mg of copper per day along with zinc.

    Prostatitis

    Zinc has antibacterial activity and is a key factor in the natural resistance of male urinary tract infections. Supplementing with it may improve postatitis.
    Prostatitis
    ×
     

    In healthy men, prostatic secretions contain a significant amount of zinc, which has antibacterial activity and is a key factor in the natural resistance of the male urinary tract infection.178,179 In CBP180,178,182,183 and NBP184 these zinc levels are significantly reduced; however, it is not clear whether this indicates a predisposition to, or is the result of, prostatic infection.180,186 Zinc supplements increased semen levels of zinc in men with NBP in one study,184but not in another.182 While zinc supplements have been associated with improvement of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), according to one preliminary report,189 no research has examined their effectiveness for prostatitis. Nonetheless, many doctors of natural medicine recommend zinc for this condition.

  • Fitness

    Athletic Performance

    Exercise depletes zinc, and severe zinc deficiency can compromise muscle function. One trial found that zinc improved muscle strength, and another study of athletes with low zinc levels found that zinc improved red blood cell flexibility during exercise, which could benefit blood flow to the muscles.
    Athletic Performance
    ×

    Exercise increases zinc losses from the human body, and severe zinc deficiency can compromise muscle function.186,187 Athletes who do not eat an optimal diet, especially those who are trying to control their weight or use fad diets while exercising strenuously, may become deficient in zinc to the extent that performance or health is compromised.188,189 One double-blind trial in women found that 135 mg per day of zinc for two weeks improved one measure of muscle strength.190 Whether these women were zinc deficient was not determined in this study. A double-blind study of male athletes with low blood levels of zinc found that 20 mg per day of zinc improved the flexibility of the red blood cells during exercise, which could benefit blood flow to the muscles.191 No other studies of the effects of zinc supplementation in exercising people have been done. A safe amount of zinc for long-term use is 20 to 40 mg per day along with 1 to 2 mg of copper. Higher amounts should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor.

  • Bone Support

    Osteoporosis

    Supplementing with zinc appears to be helpful in both preventing and treating osteoporosis.
    Osteoporosis
    ×

    One trial studying postmenopausal women combined hormone replacement therapy with magnesium (600 mg per day), calcium (500 mg per day), vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, copper, manganese, boron, and other nutrients for an eight- to nine-month period.192 In addition, participants were told to avoid processed foods, limit protein intake, emphasize vegetable over animal protein, and limit consumption of salt, sugar, alcohol, coffee, tea, chocolate, and tobacco. Bone density increased a remarkable 11%, compared to only 0.7% in women receiving hormone replacement alone.

    Levels of zinc in both blood and bone have been reported to be low in people with osteoporosis,193 and urinary loss of zinc has been reported to be high.194 In one trial, men consuming only 10 mg of zinc per day from food had almost twice the risk of osteoporotic fractures compared with those eating significantly higher levels of zinc in their diets.195 Whether zinc supplementation protects against bone loss has not yet been proven, though in one trial, supplementation with several minerals including zinc and calcium was more effective than calcium by itself.196 Many doctors recommend that people with osteoporosis, as well as those trying to protect themselves from this disease, supplement with 10 to 30 mg of zinc per day.

  • Stress and Mood Management

    Depression

    In one study, the addition of a zinc supplement enhanced the beneficial effects of antidepressants.
    Depression
    ×
    In a double-blind trial, the addition of a zinc supplement (25 mg per day) enhanced the beneficial effect of antidepressant medication in patients suffering from depression.197 The average dietary intake of zinc among participants in this study (7.6 mg per day) was below the Recommended Dietary Allowance, so it is not known whether these findings would apply to people consuming adequate amounts of zinc.
  • Weight Management

    Hypothyroidism

    In people with low zinc, supplementing with zinc may increased thyroid hormone levels.
    Hypothyroidism
    ×
     

    Laboratory animals with severe, experimentally induced zinc deficiency developed hypothyroidism, whereas moderate zinc deficiency did not affect thyroid function.198 In a small study of healthy people, thyroid hormone (thyroxine) levels tended to be lower in those with lower blood levels of zinc. In people with low zinc, supplementing with zinc increased thyroxine levels.199 One case has been reported of a woman with severe zinc deficiency (caused by the combination of alcoholism and malabsorption) who developed hypothyroidism that was corrected by supplementing with zinc.200 Although the typical Western diet is marginally low in zinc,201 additional research is needed to determine whether zinc supplementation would be effective for preventing or correcting hypothyroidism.

What Are Star Ratings?
×
Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

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References

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116. Velie EM, Block G, Shaw GM, et al. Maternal supplemental and dietary zinc intake and the occurrence of neural tube defects in California. Am J Epidemiol 1999;150:605-16.

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The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.

Copyright © 2020 TraceGains, Inc. All rights reserved.

The information presented by TraceGains is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.