Zinc Options Explained

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Zinc Options Explained

Zinc is an essential trace element required for optimal brain health and cognition.

Zinc is integral to the synthesis of proteins, the regulation of signaling cascades, gene transcription and neurotransmitter transport. It’s involved in DNA repair and synthesis and methylation.

You may think of zinc as a natural cold remedy or the white lip balm you use at the beach. But zinc is needed in small amounts every day to maintain optimal brain function and overall health.

In practical terms, adequate levels of zinc in your system work as an antioxidant fighting free radical damage. It helps maintain both male and female hormone balance. And zinc plays a role in neurotransmitter release affecting learning, memory and mood.[i]

When zinc levels are low, you’ll feel fatigued, concentration will be poor, you’ll get sick more often, and simple wounds won’t heal.

Here we’ll investigate why zinc is critical for optimal brain performance. And if you suspect you may be deficient, you may want to consider adding zinc to your nootropic stack. Because your stack may not work as well without it.

  • Neurotransmission: Zinc inhibits NMDA receptors which reduces glutamate toxicity. And zinc modulates the activity of proteins such as receptors and enzymes that are involved in the regulation of macromolecules, the regulation of signaling cascades and gene transcription, and transport processes.
  • Anxiety & Depression: Low zinc levels are found in depression, and the lower the level the more severe the depression. Zinc increases serotoninuptake in select brain regions which increases the efficacy of antidepressants. And it reduces depression because is increases BDNF.
  • Neuroprotectant: Zinc is involved in preserving genomic stability by regulation of redox homeostasis (both oxidant and antioxidant signaling), DNA repair, synthesis, and methylation. Zinc inhibits the production of inflammatory cytokines (including nuclear factor-κB). And zinc protects against cognitive decline due to toxic copper levels.[ii]

Table of Contents


Zinc is a trace element that plays an essential role in overall human health and cognition.

Zinc is required for the catalytic activity of around 100 enzymes. It’s involved in immune response, protein synthesis, wound healing, DNA synthesis and cell division.

Adequate levels of zinc are crucial for growth and development when you’re young. And required for proper taste and smell.

The A/6 pyxis before it was opened (A) and the pyxis showing its contents (B).

Our earliest physical evidence of zinc for therapeutic use comes from the wreck of the ancient ship “Relitto del Pozzino” which sank off the coast of Tuscany around 120 B.C. Archaeologists found the remains of a 2,000 year old medicine chest containing several tin pyxis (cylindrical box with a lid).

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Inside one of the tins were five medicinal tablets about the size of an American quarter and perfectly preserved. The pills contained a zinc compound which ancient writings tell us may have been used as an eyewash.[iii]

Zinc deficiency is common around the world including in the USA. This deficiency occurs because we don’t eat enough foods that contain zinc.[iv] Your body needs about 10 – 20 mg of zinc per day because it can’t store zinc.

You get zinc from eating seafood like oysters or lobster. Beef, pork and chicken provide smaller amounts of zinc per serving. And it’s also present in eggs, yogurt, cheese and some nuts.

But not only don’t most of us eat enough zinc-containing food, many plants contain phytates which block the absorption of zinc in your body. So vegetarians are particularly vulnerable to zinc deficiency.

We’ll dive deeper into zinc deficiency and its causes below in the section “How things go bad”. And we’ll cover the easily recognizable symptoms of deficiency as well.

How does Zinc Work in the Brain?

Zinc boosts brain health and function in several ways. But two in particular stand out.

  1. Zinc is an antidepressant. Zinc plays a role in modulating your brain and body’s response to stress and depression. More than 100 enzymes in your body use zinc to help make DNA, protein synthesis, and cell division.

Zinc is also critical for signaling between and within neurons and other cells in your body. Zinc fingers are present in at least 3% of all your cells. Proteins that contain zinc fingers act as interaction modules that bind DNA, RNA, proteins and other molecules.[v]

Highest amounts of zinc are found in your brain. Particularly your hippocampus. Zinc deficiency can lead to symptoms of depression, aggression, seizures, violence, ADHD, and problems with learning and memory.

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry shows that malnourished children exhibit a striking increase in behavioral disorders and aggressive behavior. Kids with nutritional deficiencies demonstrated a 41% increase in aggression at age 8! At age 17, they demonstrated a 51% increase in violent and antisocial behavior.

The malnourished kids weren’t getting enough critical minerals like zinc and iron. Or the B vitamins they needed to develop healthy nervous systems.[vi]

Levels of zinc have been found to be low in those suffering from depression. In fact, the more depressed someone is, the lower the zinc level.[vii]

Several human studies have demonstrated that supplementing zinc with SSRIs help in the effectiveness of these antidepressant drugs. One double-blind, randomized trial with 44 patients with major depression were randomly assigned to receive zinc or a placebo.

At the conclusion of the 12 week study, the researchers found that “zinc supplementation together with SSRIs antidepressant drug improves major depressive disorders more effectively than in patients with placebo plus antidepressants (SSRIs).”[viii]

  1. Zinc is required for memory formation. Research in the last decade has shown that the presence of zinc in synaptic vesicles of excitatory neurons in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus regulates synaptic plasticity.

Long-term potentiation is a form of synaptic plasticity that has been shown to underlie learning and memory. And zinc in vesicles is critical to proper function of these brain circuits.[ix]

Zinc deficiency is associated with poor memory. And deficiency impairs signaling of BDNF which is also involved in long-term potentiation and memory.[x]

One very recent study revealed that the presence of zinc changes the dynamics of release of neurotransmitters like dopamine at the neuron level.

Zinc causes the cellular pore to close more slowly than usual. Meaning the vesicle stays open longer. And releases more of the neurotransmitter molecules.

The researchers concluded, “Our results finally provide a connection between zinc and the regulation of neurotransmitter release. This could be important for the formation and storage of memories.”[xi]

Read the reviews of neurohackers supplementing with zinc and many report better energy and focus. Clinical research backs this up. But nearly always when correcting a zinc deficiency.[xii]

One Italian study investigated whether zinc supplementation could help restore memory in stroke patients. 26 patients took 10 mg of zinc daily for 30 days.

On day 30 of the trial, researchers found that zinc supplementation significantly assisted in neurological recovery in the stroke patients.[xiii]

And animal models suggest that zinc supplementation may increase resilience to Traumatic Brain Injury. For treating anxiety, depression, learning and memory deficits caused by TBI.

In this trial, rats with injury to the frontal cortex were fed either a zinc supplement or zinc supplemented diet. The rats were also given a zinc injection an hour after injury.

The research team found that zinc supplementation may be an effective treatment option for improving cognitive impairment and depression following TBI.[xiv]

How things go bad

Zinc deficiency is a problem world-wide including in countries like the United States for several reasons.

Our modern diet typically includes a lot of grains which are usually processed, packaged grain products like cereals. Zinc is found in grains. But this type of zinc is bound to phytates naturally found in these grains. Which block zinc absorption in your body.

So zinc found in whole foods like grain and legumes are not a good source of this essential trace element. And the zinc you get from eating meat can also be blocked if your meal contains grains or legumes.

Eating high carbohydrate foods, especially processed foods, in the USA and other western countries are one of the reasons zinc deficiency is increasing.

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you’re particularly susceptible to zinc deficiency. If you have chronic digestive problems, leaky gut syndrome, or drink too much alcohol you’re in danger of zinc deficiency.

Zinc deficiency symptoms include:

  • Brain fog
  • Cravings for salty or sweet foods
  • Eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Hair loss
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Impaired growth and sexual development (in kids)
  • Infertility & impotence – hypogonadism in males
  • Iron non-responsive anemia
  • Hormonal issues like bad PMS symptoms
  • Hyperactivity (as in ADHD)
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Impaired adrenal function resulting in anxiety and stress
  • Low immunity (you get colds and flu often)
  • Pica (eating dirt)
  • Poor concentration and memory
  • Skin disorders like acne
  • Taste and smell problems
  • Weight loss or gain

Any of these problems can happen at any age including in the developing child. And can be a result of not getting an adequate supply of zinc.

Zinc to the rescue

Zinc plays a critical role in how well your brain and body function.

Adequate levels of zinc will increase your immunity and help you fight colds. A Cochrane review concluded that “zinc (lozenges or syrup) is beneficial in reducing the duration and severity of the common cold in healthy people, when taken within 24 hours of onset of symptoms”.[xv]

Zinc is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which helps support healthy cell division and a healthy brain.

Zinc balances hormones which have a direct role in not only your sexual health. But in controlling anxiety, stress, mood and sleep.

Healthy zinc levels help lower inflammation and oxidative stress. The endothelium or thin layer of cells that line blood vessels rely on adequate zinc levels. Supporting a strong blood-brain barrier and cerebral blood flow.

Zinc is involved in protein synthesis which is required by your body to use amino acids from food. Needed for neurotransmitter synthesis and providing the energy needed for mitochondria in every one of your brain cells.

Healthy energy levels and avoidance of chronic fatigue rely on adequate zinc levels.

Low zinc levels are a biomarker for depression. And under conditions of chronic stress, you tend to get rid of zinc through sweat, urine and your saliva.

So if your depressed you may want to try supplementing with zinc. Especially if you’re on SSRs or other antidepressants. Research has found antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds work better when stacked with a zinc supplement.

How does Zinc feel?

Most neurohackers report that supplementing with zinc helps relax them before bed, and they sleep better. Recovery from workouts is faster.

Many report that zinc helps boosts their libido.

Zinc first thing in the morning seems to help many with energy and focus throughout the day.

Zinc supports an healthy immune system so you can avoid colds and the flu. And if you come down with a bug, zinc will shorten the duration of the illness.

Some neurohackers say zinc keeps allergies from flaring up. And many with skin problems say zinc supplementation reduces acne because it’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial.

If you are Adult ADHD you may experience a decrease in anxiety or perception of stress. And notice an improvement in mood.

One thing to note from all the research is that improvements from using zinc only manifest if your zinc deficient. With our modern diets, chances are you are deficient. See “Dosage Notes for more”.

The Research

Zinc’s role in anxiety & depression

The latest theory suggests that depression is associated with decreased neurogenesis and enhanced neurodegeneration. Which in part is the result of inflammation.

And lately there is mounting evidence that depression could be related to decreased zinc levels.[xvi]

Zinc deficiency leads to less zinc in neuron synapses which results in an increase in NMDA receptors. This can cause an overload of toxic glutamate.

With an overabundance of glutamate we get a decrease in GABA, BDNF, and nerve growth factor. This excitotoxicity is thought to be responsible for seizures, migraines, dementia, anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder.

A double-blind, placebo controlled trial in Japan worked with 30 women to study the effect of zinc supplementation on mood. Half of the women took a multivitamin. And the other half received a multivitamin with 7 mg of zinc per day for 10 weeks.

The women who took the multivitamin/zinc combo showed a significant reduction in anger, hostility, and depression. The women who took only the multivitamin showed no improvement in mood.[xvii]

Another study with depressed overweight subjects found that depression decreased in those supplementing with zinc. But zinc produced no effect on mood in those who were not depressed in the first place.

Researchers concluded that the improved mood in overweight subjects was likely through increasing BDNF levels using zinc.[xviii]

Zinc may relieve symptoms of ADHD

In the last decade, several studies have been conducted into the role trace elements like zinc and how they play in ADHD. Zinc is required for the production and modulation of melatonin which helps regulate dopamine function.[xix]

So the theory is that those with ADHD may benefit from supplementing with zinc.

A double-blind, placebo controlled trial in Turkey was conducted with 400 boys and girls with a primary diagnosis of ADHD. Half the group received 150 mg zinc sulfate for 12 weeks while the control group got a placebo.

The study concluded “Zinc monotherapy was significantly superior to placebo in reducing symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity and impaired socialization in patients with ADHD.”[xx]

Another study found that free fatty acids and zinc levels were lower in those with ADHD. But concluded that they didn’t know if zinc deficiency was the principal cause of ADHD. Or a secondary finding.

A study in Croatia again showed that supplementing with 55 mg per day of zinc sulfate help reduce the symptoms of ADHD.[xxi]

Considering the major role zinc plays in everything from cell growth to DNA synthesis to neurotransmitter synthesis and transport. And if your child is diagnosed ADHD and you don’t want to start them on stimulants. You may want to try zinc with a good Omega-3 high in DHA and see if you witness any improvement in ADHD symptoms.

Zinc may prevent autism

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) range from a severe form called autistic disorder, to a milder form called Asperger syndrome. If a child has specific symptoms of either of these disorders, but does not meet specific criteria for either, the diagnosis is called pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS).

This complex disease can be inherited, but likely also involves environmental factors.[xxii]

A study published in Biomarker Insights in 2020 worked with 79 autistic subjects to study the association between copper and zinc plasma levels and individuals with autism, Asperger’s and PDD-NOS.

Participants in the study were tested for levels of zinc, copper and antioxidants. Then based on their deficiencies, they were prescribed the appropriate dose of antioxidants (Vitamin C, E, B 6 as well as Magnesium, and Manganese if warranted). And they were given zinc picolinate daily for at least 8 weeks.

At the conclusion of the therapy, those with autism and PDD-NOS had significantly lower levels of copper. All three groups had higher levels of zinc.

Severity of symptoms decreased in autistic individuals following zinc and Vitamin B 6 therapy with respect to awareness, receptive language, focus and attention, hyperactivity, tip toeing, eye contact, sound sensitivity, tactile sensitivity and seizures.

Interestingly, none of the symptoms in the Asperger’s patients improved after therapy.[xxiii]

Dosage Notes

Recommended dosage is 30 mg of zinc daily, balanced with 2 mg of copper.

The best food source for zinc by far is oysters. Trailing far behind is other seafood, beef, pork, chicken, some nuts, and some dairy products.

Vegans and vegetarians take note: don’t count on getting any benefit from zinc supplied by vegetables because the phytates in veggies block zinc absorption in your body.

Your body needs zinc, but too much zinc is toxic. And it’s difficult to test for zinc using lab tests.

But there is a simple DIY test first reported in The Lancet that can help you determine zinc levels. Premier Research Labs sells a Liquid Zinc Assay that is available from most local and online vitamin shops.

You taste a teaspoon of Zinc Assay and depending on how the liquid tastes, you can assess your levels according to their guide.

Clearly there is a sweet spot for zinc consumption, and more is definitely not better. More than 50 mg per day can throw off your copper levels, mess with iron function, and reduce immune function.

Side Effects

Zinc toxicity typically happens when you take too much zinc. And can result in abdominal cramps, diarrhea, headaches, loss of appetite and vomiting.

Antibiotics like Cipro ® and tetracycline interact with zinc. Inhibiting the absorption of both zinc and the antibiotic.

Zinc can reduce the absorption of the rheumatoid arthritis drug penicillamine. To prevent this interaction you should take your zinc supplement at least 2 hours before or after you take your arthritis meds.

Some diuretics can increase urinary excretion of zinc by as much as 60%. Prolonged use of these drugs can severely deplete your zinc levels.

Zinc can raise your blood pressure. And too much zinc for men can be anti-androgenic, and will over inhibit DHT. Resulting in symptoms often associated with using the hair growth drug finasteride.

Men should also note that too much zinc can dull nerves including nerves in your penis. Because excess zinc can over-inhibit NMDA receptors.

Available Forms

Zinc is sold as zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate, zinc ascorbate, zinc picolinate and various other forms.

The percentage of bioavailability for zinc varies by form:

  • Zinc Ascorbate 15%
  • Zinc Bisglycinate 25%
  • Zinc Carbonate 52%
  • Zinc Citrate 31%
  • Zinc Chloride 48%
  • Zinc Sulphate 22%
  • Zinc Picolinate 20%

So if you’re using a Zinc Picolinate 50 mg tablet, your body may only get about 20% of that zinc for use by your cells.

But more importantly is the fine balance between copper and zinc. Zinc reduces the amount of copper your body absorbs because copper competes with zinc to bind with metallothionein (binding protein that brings zinc into the cells).

The ratio of copper and zinc in your body is more important than the amount of each.

For a preformulated vitamin/mineral blend including zinc and copper, designed to optimize your brain and body, I recommend the Performance Lab ® Whole-Food Multi for men or women.

This Whole-Food Multi is Performance Lab’s nutritional starting point, and base of any nootropic stack for restoring and supporting nutrient wellness to your brain and body for peak performance.

The men’s formula contains 22.5 mg of zinc and 1.5 mg of copper while the women’s formula has 10 mg of zinc and 1.5 mg of copper. These are nature-identical minerals just like you’d get from food.

You can see my full review of the Performance Lab ® Whole-Food Multi here.

Nootropics Expert Recommendation

Zinc 30 mg per day

We recommend using Zinc as a nootropic supplement.

Your body does not make Zinc on its own. So to get its benefits it needs to come from your diet. Or you must take it as a supplement.

Zinc is especially helpful for treating anxiety and depression. Studies have demonstrated that zinc levels are low in those dealing with depression. And the lower the zinc level, the more severe the depression.

Studies have also shown that if you are having limited success using prescription anti-anxiety drugs or antidepressants that you may increase their effectiveness by supplementing with zinc.

Zinc is also particularly useful in helping alleviate the hyperactivity part of ADHD. Impaired impulsivity and socialization get a boost as well.

Zinc is also required for efficiently encoding and retrieving memories.

Zinc deficiency is a problem worldwide. Especially if you’re vegan or vegetarian.

But too much zinc is toxic. Keep your dose of zinc below 50 mg per day. And stack it with 2 mg of copper to keep your copper/zinc ratio stable.

A great option for optimal zinc and copper for cognitive function is the Performance Lab ® Whole-Food Multi for men or women.

[i] Ren L., Pour M.D., Majdi S., Malmberg P., Ewing A.G. “Zinc Regulates Chemical-Transmitter Storage in Nanometer Vesicles and Exocytosis Dynamics as Measured by Amperometry.” Angewandte Chemie (International Edition in English) 2020 Apr 24;56(18):4970-4975. (source)

[ii] Brewer G.J., Kaur S. “Zinc Deficiency and Zinc Therapy Efficacy with Reduction of Serum Free Copper in Alzheimer’s Disease” International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2020; 2020: 586365. (source)

[iii] Giachi G. et. El. “Ingredients of a 2,000-y-old medicine revealed by chemical, mineralogical, and botanical investigations” Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences of the United States of America vol. 110 no. 4 > Gianna Giachi, 1193–1196 (source)

[iv] Prasad A.S., Mantzoros C.S., Beck F.W., Hess J.W., Brewer G.J. “Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.” Nutrition. 1996 May;12(5):344-8. (source)

[v] Matthews J.M., Sunde M. “Zinc fingers–folds for many occasions.” IUBMB Life. 2002 Dec;54(6):351-5. (source)

[vi] Sutliff U. “Nutrition Key to Aggressive Behavior” USC News news.usc.edu November 16, 2004 retrieved September 21, 2020 (source)

[vii] Szewczyk B., Kubera M., Nowak G. “The role of zinc in neurodegenerative inflammatory pathways in depression.” Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry. 2020 Apr 29;35(3):693-701. (source)

[viii] Ranjbar E., Kasaei M.S., Mohammad-Shirazi M., Nasrollahzadeh J., Rashidkhani B., Shams J., Mostafavi S.A., Mohammadi M.R. “Effects of zinc supplementation in patients with major depression: a randomized clinical trial.” Iranian Journal of Psychiatry. 2020 Jun;8(2):73-9. (source)

[ix] Pan E., Zhang X.A., Huang Z., Krezel A., Zhao M., Tinberg C.E., Lippard S.J., McNamara J.O. “Vesicular zinc promotes presynaptic and inhibits postsynaptic long-term potentiation of mossy fiber-CA3 synapse.” Neuron. 2020 Sep 22;71(6):1116-26. (source)

[x] Mizuno M., Yamada K., He J., Nakajima A., Nabeshima T. “Involvement of BDNF receptor TrkB in spatial memory formation.” Learning and Memory. 2003 Mar-Apr;10(2):108-15. (source)

[xi] Ren L., Pour M.D., Li X., Malmberg P. Ewing A.G. “Zinc Regulates Chemical-Transmitter Storage in Nanometer Vesicles and Exocytosis Dynamics as Measured by Amperometry.” Angewandte Chemie (International Edition in English). 2020 Apr 24;56(18):4970-4975 (source)

[xii] Tahmasebi Boroujeni S., Naghdi N., Shahbazi M., Farrokhi A., Bagherzadeh F., Kazemnejad A., Javadian M. “The effect of severe zinc deficiency and zinc supplement on spatial learning and memory.” Biological Trace Element Research. 2009 Jul;130(1):48-61. (source)

[xiii] Aquilani R., Baiardi P., Scocchi M., Iadarola P., Verri M., Sessarego P., Boschi F., Pasini E., Pastoris O., Viglio S. “Normalization of zinc intake enhances neurological retrieval of patients suffering from ischemic strokes.” Nutritional Neuroscience. 2009 Oct;12(5):219-25. (source)

[xiv] Cope E.C., Morris D.R., Scrimgeour A.G., Levenson C.W. “Use of zinc as a treatment for traumatic brain injury in the rat: effects on cognitive and behavioral outcomes.” Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. 2020 Sep;26(7):907-13. (source)

[xv] Singh M., Das R.R.” Zinc for the common cold.” Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews. 2020 Feb 16;2:CD001364. (source)

[xvi] Szewczyk B., Kubera M., Nowak G. “The role of zinc in neurodegenerative inflammatory pathways in depression.” Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry. 2020 Apr 29;35(3):693-701 (source)

[xvii] Sawada T., Yokoi K. “Effect of zinc supplementation on mood states in young women: a pilot study.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2020 Mar;64(3):331-3. (source)

[xviii] Solati Z., Jazayeri S., Tehrani-Doost M., Mahmoodianfard S., Gohari M.R. “Zinc monotherapy increases serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels and decreases depressive symptoms in overweight or obese subjects: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” Nutritional Neuroscience. 2020 May;18(4):162-8 (source)

[xix] Kirby K., Floriani V., Bernstein H. “Diagnosis and management of attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in children.” Current Opinion in Pediatrics. 2001 Apr; 13(2):190-9. (source)

[xx] Bilici M., Yildirim F., Kandil S., Bekaroğlu M., Yildirmiş S., Değer O., Ulgen M., Yildiran A., Aksu H. “Double-blind, placebo-controlled study of zinc sulfate in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry. 2004 Jan;28(1):181-90. (source)

[xxi] Dodig-Curković K., Dovhanj J., Curković M., Dodig-Radić J., Degmecić D. “[The role of zinc in the treatment of hyperactivity disorder in children]. In Croatian Acta Medica Croatica. 2009 Oct;63(4):307-13. (source)

Zinc Options Explained

AcГ©tate de Zinc, Acexamate de Zinc, Aspartate de Zinc, Atomic Number 30, Chlorure de Zinc, Citrate de Zinc, Gluconate de Zinc, MГ©thionine de Zinc, MonomГ©thionine de Zinc, NumГ©ro Atomique 30, Orotate de Zinc, Oxyde de Zinc, Picolinate de Zinc, Polaprezinc, Pyrithione de Zinc, Sulfate de Zinc, Zinc Acetate, Zinc Acexamate, Zinc Aspartate, Zinc Chloride, Zinc Citrate, Zinc Difumarate Hydrate, Zinc Gluconate, Zinc Methionine, Zinc Monomethionine, Zinc Murakab, Zinc Orotate, Zinc Oxide, Zinc Picolinate, Zinc Pyrithione, Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Sulphate, Zincum Aceticum, Zincum Gluconicum, Zincum Metallicum, Zincum Valerianicum, Zn.

Overview Information

Zinc is a mineral. It is called an “essential trace element” because very small amounts of zinc are necessary for human health. Since the human body does not store excess zinc, it must be consumed regularly as part of the diet. Common dietary sources of zinc include red meat, poultry, and fish. Zinc deficiency can cause short stature, reduced ability to taste food, and the inability of testes and ovaries to function properly.

Zinc is used for the treatment and prevention of zinc deficiency and its consequences, including stunted growth and acute diarrhea in children, slow wound healing, and Wilson’s disease. Zinc is also used for many other conditions. There is some scientific evidence to support its use for some of these conditions. But for most, there is no good scientific evidence to support its use.

Note that many zinc products also contain another metal called cadmium. This is because zinc and cadmium are chemically similar and often occur together in nature. Exposure to high levels of cadmium over a long time can lead to kidney failure. The concentration of cadmium in zinc-containing supplements can vary as much as 37-fold. Look for zinc-gluconate products. Zinc gluconate consistently contains the lowest cadmium levels.

How does it work?

Zinc is needed for the proper growth and maintenance of the human body. It is found in several systems and biological reactions, and it is needed for immune function, wound healing, blood clotting, thyroid function, and much more. Meats, seafood, dairy products, nuts, legumes, and whole grains offer relatively high levels of zinc.

Zinc deficiency is not uncommon worldwide, but is rare in the US. Symptoms include slowed growth, low insulin levels, loss of appetite, irritability, generalized hair loss, rough and dry skin, slow wound healing, poor sense of taste and smell, diarrhea, and nausea. Moderate zinc deficiency is associated with disorders of the intestine which interfere with food absorption (malabsorption syndromes), alcoholism, chronic kidney failure, and chronic debilitating diseases.

Zinc plays a key role in maintaining vision, and it is present in high concentrations in the eye. Zinc deficiency can alter vision, and severe deficiency can cause changes in the retina (the back of the eye where an image is focused).

Zinc might also have effects against viruses. It appears to lessen symptoms of the rhinovirus (common cold), but researchers can’t yet explain exactly how this works. In addition, there is some evidence that zinc has some antiviral activity against the herpes virus.

Low zinc levels can be associated with male infertility, sickle cell disease, HIV, major depression, and type 2 diabetes, and can be fought by taking a zinc supplement.

Uses & Effectiveness ?

Effective for

  • Zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency might occur in people with severe diarrhea, conditions that make it hard for the bowel to absorb food, liver cirrhosis and alcoholism, after major surgery, and during long-term use of tube feeding in the hospital. Taking zinc by mouth or giving zinc intravenously (by IV) helps to restore zinc levels in people who are zinc deficient. However, taking zinc supplements regularly is not recommended.

Likely Effective for

  • Diarrhea. Taking zinc by mouth reduces the duration and severity of diarrhea in children who are undernourished or zinc deficient. Severe zinc deficiency in children is common in developing countries. Also giving zinc to undernourished women during pregnancy and for one month after delivery reduces the incidence of diarrhea in infants during the first year of life.
  • An inherited disorder that causes copper to build up in many organs (Wilson disease). Taking zinc by mouth improves symptoms of an inherited disorder called Wilson disease. People with Wilson disease have too much copper in their bodies. Zinc blocks how much copper is absorbed and increases how much copper the body releases.

Possibly Effective for

  • Acne. Research suggests that people with acne have lower blood and skin levels of zinc. Taking zinc by mouth appears to help treat acne. However, it’s unclear how beneficial zinc is compared to acne medications such as tetracycline or minocycline. Applying zinc to the skin in an ointment does not seem to help treat acne unless used in combination with the antibiotic drug called erythromycin.
  • A disorder of zinc deficiency (acrodermatitis enteropathica). Taking zinc by mouth seems to help improve symptoms of acrodermatitis enteropathica.
  • An eye disease that leads to vision loss in older adults (age-related macular degeneration or AMD). People who consume more zinc as part of their diet seem to have a lower risk of developing age-related vision loss. Research shows that taking supplements containing zinc and antioxidant vitamins may modestly slow vision loss and prevent age-related vision loss from becoming advanced in people at high risk. It’s still not clear if taking zinc along with antioxidant vitamins helps prevent age-related vision loss from becoming advanced in people at low risk. Most research shows that taking zinc alone, without antioxidant vitamins, does not help most people with age-related vision loss. However, it’s possible that people with certain genes that make them susceptible to age-related vision loss might benefit from zinc supplements.
  • An eating disorder (anorexia nervosa). Taking zinc supplements by mouth might help increase weight gain and improve depression symptoms in teens and adults with anorexia.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There is evidence that children with ADHD might have lower blood levels of zinc than children without ADHD. There is also evidence that people with ADHD who have lower zinc levels might not respond well enough to prescription medications for ADHD (stimulants). Thus, zinc supplements are of interest for people with ADHD. Taking zinc by mouth along with medicine for ADHD might slightly improve hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and socialization problems in some children with ADHD. But zinc doesn’t seem to improve attention span. Most studies using zinc for ADHD have taken place in the Middle East, where zinc deficiency is more common than in Western countries. One small study shows that taking zinc alone or as add-on therapy to prescription ADHD medication does not consistently improve symptoms of ADHD. But it does seem to lower the optimal dose of ADHD medication that is needed.
  • Burns. Giving zinc intravenously (by IV) together with other minerals seems to improve wound healing in people with burns. However, taking zinc alone does not appear to improve wound healing in all people with burns, but it might reduce recovery time in people with severe burns.
  • Non-cancerous growths in the large intestine and rectum (colorectal adenoma). Research suggests that taking a supplement containing selenium, zinc, vitamin A 2, vitamin C, and vitamin E by mouth daily for 5 years reduces the risk of recurrent large-bowel tumors by about 40%.
  • Common cold. Although some conflicting results exist, most research shows that taking lozenges containing zinc gluconate or zinc acetate by mouth helps reduce the duration of a cold in adults. However, side effects such as bad taste and nausea might limit its usefulness. It is unclear if zinc helps prevent common colds. In adults, taking zinc supplements by mouth does not seem to prevent common colds. However, zinc gluconate lozenges might help prevent colds in children and adolescents. Using zinc as a nose spray does not seem to help prevent colds.
  • Depression. Early research suggests that zinc levels are lower in people with depression. Ingesting more zinc is associated with less risk of depression. Some research suggests that taking zinc along with antidepressants improves depression in people with major depression. However, other research shows that it improves depression in only people who do not respond to treatment with antidepressants alone. It doesn’t seem to improve depression in people who respond to antidepressant treatment.
  • Diabetes. Taking zinc seems to reduce blood sugar, increase insulin levels, improve the way the body uses insulin, and decrease cholesterol and other fats (lipids) in the blood in people with type 2 diabetes. Zinc also seems to decrease body weight in people with diabetes who are overweight or obese. Taking zinc might also help to lower blood sugar in women who develop diabetes during pregnancy. But it doesn’t seem to reduce the need for a caesarean section during labor in these women.
  • Foot sores in people with diabetes. Research suggests that applying zinc hyaluronate gel can help foot ulcers heal faster than conventional treatment in people with diabetes.
  • Diaper rash. Giving zinc gluconate by mouth to infants seems to speed up the healing of diaper rash. Applying zinc oxide paste also seems to improve the healing of diaper rash. However, it doesn’t seem to work as well as applying 2% eosin solution.
  • A mild form of gum disease (gingivitis). Using toothpastes containing zinc, with or without an antibacterial agent, appears to prevent plaque and gingivitis. Some evidence also shows that zinc-containing toothpaste can reduce existing plaque. However, other conventional treatments may be more effective. Also, most studies that showed benefit used zinc citrate in combination with triclosan, which is not available in the US.
  • Bad breath. Research suggests that chewing gum, sucking on a candy, or using a mouth rinse containing zinc reduces bad breath.
  • Cold sores (herpes labialis). Applying zinc sulfate or zinc oxide to the skin, alone or with other ingredients, seems to reduce the duration and severity of oral and genital herpes. However, zinc might not be beneficial for recurrent herpes infections.
  • Reduced ability to taste (hypogeusia). Some early research suggests that taking zinc by mouth does not improve taste disorders in children with zinc deficiency. But most evidence suggests that taking zinc by mouth is effective for people with a reduced ability to taste foods due to zinc deficiency or some other conditions.
  • Skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions). Research suggests that taking zinc sulfate by mouth or injecting as a solution into lesions helps heal lesions in people with Leishmaniasis. However, injecting zinc solutions into lesions does not seem to be more effective than conventional treatments.
  • Leprosy. Taking zinc by mouth in combination with anti-leprosy drugs seems to help treat leprosy.
  • Muscle cramps. Taking zinc by mouth seems to help treat muscle cramps in people with cirrhosis and zinc deficiency.
  • Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Low zinc intake seems to be linked to lower bone mass. Taking a zinc supplement in combination with copper, manganese, and calcium might decrease bone loss in women who have passed menopause.
  • Stomach ulcers. Taking zinc acexamate by mouth seems to help treat and prevent peptic ulcers. However, this form of zinc is not available in the US.
  • Sore throat (pharyngitis). Using a zinc lozenge before surgery that involves having a tube placed into the windpipe seems to reduce the chance of having a sore throat after surgery.
  • Pneumonia. Most research suggests that taking zinc might help PREVENT pneumonia in undernourished children. However, research assessing the effects of zinc for TREATING pneumonia once it develops shows conflicting.
  • Preterm birth. Taking zinc by mouth during pregnancy appears to reduce the risk for early delivery. But zinc supplementation doesn’t seem to reduce the risk for stillbirths, miscarriage, or infant deaths.
  • Bed sores (pressure ulcers). Applying zinc paste appears to help improve the healing of bed sores in elderly people. Also, increasing zinc intake in the diet seems to improve bed sore healing in hospitalized patients with bed sore.
  • Illness from a Shigella bacteria infection (shigellosis). Research shows that taking a multivitamin syrup containing zinc along with conventional treatment can improve recovery time and reduce diarrhea in undernourished children with food poisoning.
  • Sickle cell disease. Taking zinc by mouth seems to help reduce symptoms of sickle cell disease in people with zinc deficiency. Taking zinc supplements also appears to decrease the risk for complications and infections related to sickle cell disease.
  • Leg sores caused by weak blood circulation (venous leg ulcer). Taking zinc sulfate by mouth appears to help some types of leg ulcers heal faster. The effects seem to be greater in people with low levels of zinc before treatment. Applying zinc paste to leg ulcers also appears to improve healing.
  • Vitamin A deficiency. Taking zinc by mouth together with vitamin A seems to improve vitamin A levels in undernourished children better than vitamin A or zinc alone.
  • Warts. Early research suggests that applying a zinc sulfate solution improves plane warts but not common warts. Applying zinc oxide ointment appears to be as effective as conventional treatments for curing warts. Taking zinc sulfate by mouth also appears to be effective.

Possibly Ineffective for

  • Patchy hair loss (alopecia areata). Although there is early evidence that suggests taking zinc together with biotin might be helpful for hair loss, most studies suggest that zinc is not effective for this condition.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis). Taking zinc by mouth does not appear to improve skin redness or itching in children with eczema.
  • Cataracts. Taking zinc by mouth together with antioxidant vitamins does not seem to help treat or prevent cataracts.
  • Cystic fibrosis. Zinc sulfate does not appear to improve lung function in children or adolescents with cystic fibrosis, although it may reduce the need for antibiotics.
  • HIV/AIDS. Taking zinc by mouth along with antiretroviral therapy does not improve immune function or reduce the risk of death in adults or children with HIV.
  • Pregnancy complications in women with HIV/AIDS. Taking zinc by mouth during pregnancy does not appear to reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to the infant. Also, zinc does not appear to prevent infant death or maternal wasting in pregnant women with HIV.
  • Involuntary weight loss in people with HIV/AIDS. Taking zinc by mouth together with vitamins does not seem to improve AIDS diarrhea-wasting syndrome.
  • Infant development. Giving zinc to infants or children at risk for having low levels of zinc does not seem to improve mental or motor development. But giving zinc to women during pregnancy might increase the growth of the child during the first year of life.
  • Long-term swelling (inflammation) in the digestive tract (inflammatory bowel disease or IBD). Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treat IBD.
  • Flu (influenza). Taking zinc supplements by mouth is unlikely to improve immune function against the flu virus in people who are not at risk for zinc deficiency.
  • Ear infection (otitis media). Taking zinc does not appear to prevent ear infections in children.
  • A pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure and protein in the urine (pre-eclampsia). Taking zinc does not seem to reduce the risk of high blood pressure in pregnancy.
  • Low iron levels in women who are pregnant. Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help improve iron levels in women taking iron and folic acid supplements.
  • Prostate cancer. Taking zinc does not seem to be linked to the risk of getting prostate cancer.
  • Scaly, itchy skin (psoriasis). Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treat psoriasis.
  • Joint swelling (inflammation) in people with psoriasis. Taking zinc by mouth, alone or together with painkillers, has no effect on the progression of psoriatic arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treat rheumatoid arthritis.
  • A skin condition that causes redness on the face (rosacea). Research suggests that taking zinc by mouth daily for 90 days does not improve quality of life or symptoms associated with rosacea.
  • Sexual problems that prevent satisfaction during sexual activity. Research suggests that zinc supplementation does not improve sexual function in men with sexual dysfunction related to kidney disease.
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help treating ringing in the ears.
  • Upper airway infection. Taking zinc by mouth does not decrease the risk for upper respiratory tract infections.

Likely InEffective for

  • Malaria. Taking zinc by mouth does not seem to help prevent or treat malaria in undernourished children in developing countries.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Liver disease in people who drink alcohol. Taking zinc sulfate by mouth might improve liver function in people with alcohol-related liver disease.
  • Alzheimer disease. Some early research shows that zinc supplements might slow the worsening of symptoms in people with Alzheimer disease.
  • Arsenic poisoning. Early research suggests that taking zinc together with spirulina can reduce symptoms and arsenic levels in the urine and hair of people with long-term arsenic poisoning.
  • Asthma. Zinc intake does not appear to be linked to the risk for developing asthma in children.
  • A blood disorder that reduces levels of protein in the blood called hemoglobin (beta-thalassemia). Early research suggests that taking zinc sulfate while undergoing blood transfusions increases growth in children with beta-thalassemia compared to blood transfusions alone.
  • Brain tumor. Early research suggests that zinc intake is not linked with a reduced risk of developing brain cancer.
  • Swelling (inflammation) of small airways in the lung (bronchiolitis). Taking zinc while in the hospital might speed up recovery from this type of airway infection.
  • Canker sores. Some early research suggests that taking zinc sulfate improves canker sores and prevents them from reappearing. However, other research shows no benefit.
  • Tiredness in people treated with cancer drugs. Early research shows that taking zinc does not reduce tiredness or improve life quality in people with colorectal cancer receiving chemotherapy.
  • A lung disease that makes it harder to breathe (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD). Early research suggests that taking zinc daily after recovery from COPD-related infections reduces the risk of additional infections in older people.
  • Colon cancer, rectal cancer. Increased intake of zinc has been linked to a 17% to 20% reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Heart disease. Early research suggests that taking zinc reduces cholesterol but not triglycerides in people with clogged arteries.
  • Diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, that interfere with thinking (dementia). Research suggests that taking zinc sulfate improves behavior and social abilities in people with memory loss.
  • Tooth plaque. Early evidence suggests that brushing teeth with toothpaste containing zinc reduces plaque buildup.
  • Nerve pain in people with diabetes (diabetic neuropathy). Research suggests that taking zinc sulfate improves nerve function and reduces blood sugar in people with nerve damage caused by diabetes.
  • Down syndrome. Early research suggests that taking zinc can improve immune function and reduce infections in people with Down syndrome who are zinc deficient and have weakened immune systems. However, other research shows conflicting results.
  • Seizure disorder (epilepsy). Taking zinc might reduce how often seizures occur in children not responding well to other treatments.
  • Cancer of the esophagus. Early research has linked low intake of zinc with an increased risk of esophageal cancer. However, other early research shows that zinc intake is not linked with the risk of esophageal cancer. It’s possible that the source of zinc (plant vs. meat) affects how beneficial it is.
  • Loss of bowel movement control (fecal incontinence). Research suggests that applying an ointment containing zinc and aluminum to the anus three times daily for 4 weeks improves symptoms and quality of life in women with a loss of control of bowel movements.
  • Stomach cancer. Early research shows that increased zinc intake is not linked to a lower risk of stomach cancer.
  • Head and neck cancer. Early research suggests that zinc supplementation does not improve survival rates or reduce the spread of cancer after 3 years in people with head and neck cancer.
  • Reduced brain function in people with advanced liver disease (hepatic encephalopathy). Early research suggests that taking zinc may slightly improve mental function in people with hepatic encephalopathy. However, zinc does not appear to improve disease severity or recurrence.
  • Diarrhea in people with HIV/AIDS. Taking zinc long-term might help prevent diarrhea in adults with HIV who have low blood levels of zinc. However, zinc doesn’t seem to help treat diarrhea in adults with HIV-related diarrhea. In children with HIV, some research shows that taking zinc reduces the occurrence of diarrhea compared to placebo (sugar pills). But other research shows that it doesn’t help prevent diarrhea compared to vitamin A.
  • Certain infections (opportunistic infections) in people with HIV/AIDS. There is some early evidence that taking zinc supplements by mouth in combination with the drug zidovudine might reduce infections that occur because of a weakened immune system. However, it might negatively affect survival in people with AIDS.
  • Infection of the intestines by parasites. Taking zinc alone or along with vitamin A might help treat some, but not all, parasite infections in children in developing countries. Also, some research suggests that taking zinc with vitamin A reduces the risk for some infections. However, other research suggests that zinc does not reduce the risk for infection.
  • Cancer of the white blood cells (leukemia). Research suggests that taking zinc by mouth helps improve weight gain and reduces infection rate in children and adolescents with leukemia. However, zinc does not appear to improve nutrient levels in the body so that the body can function properly.
  • Infants born weighing less than 2500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces). Taking zinc during pregnancy does not seem to reduce the risk of having a newborn with low birth weight. Giving zinc to underweight infants in developing countries seems to decrease the risk of death, prevent certain complications, and improve mental ability. Giving zinc supplementation to low birth weight infants industrialized countries also seems to help prevent some complications and death. But zinc doesn’t appear to improve growth in low birth weight infants from industrialized countries.
  • Conditions in a man that prevent him from getting a woman pregnant within a year of trying to conceive (male infertility). Some early research suggests that zinc supplementation increases sperm count, testosterone levels, and pregnancy rates in infertile men with low testosterone levels. Other research suggests that taking zinc can improve sperm shape in men with moderate enlargement of a vein in the scrotum (grade III varicocele). However, in men with fertility problems due to diseases or medical treatment, taking zinc has produced mixed results.
  • Dark skin patches on the face (melasma). Research suggests that applying a solution containing zinc to the skin daily for 2 months is less effective than standard skin bleaching treatment for people with brown patches on the face.
  • Heart attack. Early research shows that taking zinc twice daily for 9 months helps the heart to beat more effectively in people who have had a heart attack.
  • Cancer of the upper part of the throat behind the nose (nasopharyngeal cancer). Early research suggests that taking zinc improves survival rates after 5 years in people with a rare type of advanced nose and throat cancer.
  • Yellowing of the skin in infants (neonatal jaundice). Early research suggests that taking zinc twice daily for 7 days does not improve jaundice in newborns.
  • Injury to the brain, spine, or nerves (neurological trauma). Administering zinc immediately after a head trauma seems to improve the rate of recovery.
  • Cancer that starts in white blood cells (non-Hodgkin lymphoma). Early research suggests that zinc supplementation is linked to a decreased risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • A type of anxiety marked by recurrent thoughts and repetitive behaviors (obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD). Early research suggests that taking zinc twice daily along with the drug fluoxetine for 8 weeks reduces OCD symptoms slightly more than taking fluoxetine alone.
  • Swelling (inflammation) and sores inside the mouth (oral mucositis). Research shows that taking zinc sulfate by mouth while undergoing radiation therapy helps prevent ulcers and swelling in the mouth caused by radiation treatments. Some research shows that taking zinc sulfate by mouth reduces the severity of mouth ulcers in adults undergoing chemotherapy. However, taking zinc does appear to improve mouth ulcers caused by chemotherapy in children and adolescents. Zinc does not appear to reduce mouth ulcers in patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT).
  • A hormonal disorder that causes enlarged ovaries with cysts (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS). Some research shows that taking zinc helps prevent hair loss on the head and hair growth on the face in women with PCOS who are also taking a medication called metformin. Taking zinc does not seem to improve acne or levels of hormones in the body.
  • Recovery after surgery. Early research suggests that taking zinc reduces the healing time after surgery used to treat an abnormal skin growth located at the tailbone (pilonidal surgery).
  • Swelling (inflammation) of the prostate due to infection. Taking zinc along with the drug prazosin does not seem to improve the ability to urinate or quality of life compared to taking prazosin alone in men with prostate swelling. But zinc might help to relive pain in some people with this condition.
  • Itching. Early research suggests that taking zinc twice daily for 2 months reduces itching in people with kidney disease who are experiencing itching due to dialysis treatment.
  • Seizures. Febrile seizures are seizures that occur during a fever. Taking zinc might prevent these seizures in children who already experienced one.
  • Blood infection (sepsis). Taking zinc along with antibiotics might protect the brain of newborns with sepsis. It isn’t known if taking zinc can help these babies live longer.
  • Infections of the kidney, bladder, or urethra (urinary tract infections or UTIs). Early research shows that taking zinc helps to improve some symptoms of a bladder infection faster in children who are also taking antibiotics. Taking zinc might reduce how often they need to go to the bathroom. It doesn’t seem to help with fever or to kill the bacteria in the bladder.
  • Wound healing. Early research suggests that applying a zinc solution twice daily improves wound healing compared to applying a saline solution. However, applying zinc-containing insulin (Humulin by Eli Lilly and Company) seems to work better than solution containing zinc alone.
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease).
  • A type of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis).
  • Skin wrinkles from sun damage.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate zinc for these uses.

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Zinc is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in amounts not larger than 40 mg daily. Routine zinc supplementation is not recommended without the advice of a healthcare professional. In some people, zinc might cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, metallic taste, kidney and stomach damage, and other side effects. Zinc is POSSIBLY SAFE when taking by mouth in doses greater than 40 mg daily. There is some concern that taking doses higher than 40 mg daily might decrease how much copper the body absorbs. Decreased copper absorption may cause anemia. Taking high amounts of zinc is LIKELY UNSAFE. High doses above the recommended amounts might cause fever, coughing, stomach pain, fatigue, and many other problems. Taking more than 100 mg of supplemental zinc daily or taking supplemental zinc for 10 or more years doubles the risk of developing prostate cancer. There is also concern that taking large amounts of a multivitamin plus a separate zinc supplement increases the chance of dying from prostate cancer. Taking 450 mg or more of zinc daily can cause problems with blood iron. Single doses of 10-30 grams of zinc can be fatal.

When applied to the skin: Zinc is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when applied to the skin. Using zinc on broken skin may cause burning, stinging, itching, and tingling.

When inhaled: Zinc is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when inhaled through the nose, as it might cause permanent loss of smell. In June 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers not to use certain zinc-containing nose sprays (Zicam) after receiving over 100 reports of loss of smell. The maker of these zinc-containing nose sprays has also received several hundred reports of loss of smell from people who had used the products. Avoid using nose sprays containing zinc.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Infants and children: Zinc is LIKELY SAFE when taken by mouth appropriately in the recommended amounts. Zinc is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used in high doses.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Zinc is LIKELY SAFE for most pregnant and breast-feeding women when used in the recommended daily amounts (RDA). However, zinc is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used in high doses by breast-feeding women and LIKELY UNSAFE when used in high doses by pregnant women. Pregnant women over 18 should not take more than 40 mg of zinc per day; pregnant women age 14 to 18 should not take more than 34 mg per day. Breast-feeding women over 18 should not take more than 40 mg of zinc per day; breast-feeding women age 14 to 18 should not take more than 34 mg per day.

Alcoholism: Long-term, excessive alcohol drinking is linked to poor zinc absorption in the body.

Diabetes: Large doses of zinc can lower blood sugar in people with diabetes. People with diabetes should use zinc products cautiously.

Hemodialysis: People receiving hemodialysis treatments seem to be at risk for zinc deficiency and might require zinc supplements.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)/AIDS: Use zinc cautiously if you have HIV/AIDS. Zinc use has been linked to shorter survival time in people with HIV/AIDs.

Syndromes in which it is difficult for the body to absorb nutrients: People with malabsorption syndromes may be zinc deficient.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): People with RA absorb less zinc.

Vegetarianism: Vegetarian diets are often linked with lower zinc absorption. So this type of diet is considered a risk factor for zinc depletion. But the body adapts over the long term. It becomes better at absorbing zinc and reducing zinc loss.

Interactions ?

Moderate Interaction

Be cautious with this combination

Antibiotics (Quinolone antibiotics) interacts with ZINC

Zinc might decrease how much antibiotic the body absorbs. Taking zinc along with some antibiotics might decrease the effectiveness of some antibiotics. To avoid this interaction take zinc supplements at least 1 hour after antibiotics.
Some of these antibiotics that might interact with zinc include ciprofloxacin (Cipro), enoxacin (Penetrex), norfloxacin (Chibroxin, Noroxin), sparfloxacin (Zagam), trovafloxacin (Trovan), and grepafloxacin (Raxar).

Antibiotics (Tetracycline antibiotics) interacts with ZINC

Zinc can attach to tetracyclines in the stomach. This decreases the amount of tetracyclines that can be absorbed. Taking zinc with tetracyclines might decrease the effectiveness of tetracyclines. To avoid this interaction take zinc 2 hours before or 4 hours after taking tetracyclines.
Some tetracyclines include demeclocycline (Declomycin), minocycline (Minocin), and tetracycline (Achromycin).

Cisplatin (Platinol-AQ) interacts with ZINC

Cisplatin (Platinol-AQ) is used to treat cancer. Taking zinc along with EDTA and cisplatin (Platinol-AQ) might increase the effects and side effects of cisplatin (Platinol-AQ).

Penicillamine interacts with ZINC

Penicillamine is used for Wilson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Zinc might decrease how much penicillamine your body absorbs and decrease the effectiveness of penicillamine.

Minor Interaction

Be watchful with this combination

Amiloride (Midamor) interacts with ZINC

Amiloride (Midamor) is used as a “water pill” to help remove excess water from the body. Another effect of amiloride (Midamor) is that it can increase the amount of zinc in the body. Taking zinc supplements with amiloride (Midamor) might cause you to have too much zinc in your body.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:


  • General: Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) quantities of zinc have been established for boys and men age 14 and older, 11 mg/day; women 19 and older, 8 mg/day; pregnant women 14 to 18, 13 mg/day; pregnant women 19 and older, 11 mg/day; lactating women 14 to 18, 14 mg/day; lactating women 19 and older, 12 mg/day. Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) of zinc for people who are not receiving zinc under medical supervision: adults 19 years and older (including pregnancy and lactation), 40 mg/day. The typical North American male consumes about 13 mg/day of dietary zinc; women consume approximately 9 mg/day. Different salt forms provide different amounts of elemental zinc. Zinc sulfate contains 23% elemental zinc; 220 mg zinc sulfate contains 50 mg zinc. Zinc gluconate contains 14.3% elemental zinc; 10 mg zinc gluconate contains 1.43 mg zinc.
  • For zinc deficiency: In people with mild zinc deficiency, recommendations suggest taking two to three times the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of zinc for 6 months. In people with moderate to severe deficiency, recommendations suggest taking four to five times the RDA for 6 months.
  • For diarrhea: To prevent diarrhea in infants, pregnant women have used 15 mg of zinc, with or without 60 mg of iron and 250 mcg of folic acid, starting 10-24 weeks into pregnancy through one month after giving birth.
  • For an inherited disorder that causes copper to build up in many organs (Wilson disease): Zinc acetate (Galzin in the U.S.; Wilzin in Europe) is an FDA-approved drug for treating Wilson disease. The recommended dose, which contains 25-50 mg of zinc, is to be taken three to five times daily.
  • For acne: 30-150 mg elemental zinc daily has been used.
  • For a disorder of zinc deficiency (acrodermatitis enteropathica): Taking 2-3 mg/kg of elemental zinc daily for a lifetime is recommended for treating an inherited disorder that affects zinc uptake.
  • For an eye disease that leads to vision loss in older adults (age-related macular degeneration or AMD): A combination of 80 mg of elemental zinc, 2 mg of copper, 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, and 15 mg of beta-carotene taken daily for 5 years has been used in people with advanced age-related vision loss.
  • For an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa): 14-50 mg of elemental zinc has been used daily.
  • For the common cold: One zinc gluconate or acetate lozenge, providing 4.5-24 mg elemental zinc, dissolved in the mouth every two hours while awake when cold symptoms are present.
  • For depression: 25 mg of elemental zinc has been used daily for 12 weeks along with antidepressant medications.
  • For diabetes:
    • For type 2 diabetes: 25 mg of zinc gluconate has been taken twice daily for 8 weeks.
    • For diabetes in pregnant women: 30 mg of zinc gluconate has been taken daily for 6 weeks.
  • For reduced ability to taste (hypogeusia): 140-450 mg of zinc gluconate has been taken in up to three divided doses daily for up to 4 months. Also, 25 mg of elemental zinc taken daily for 6 weeks has been used. A zinc-containing product called polaprezinc (Promac, Zeria Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd) has also been used.
  • For a skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions): 2.5-10 mg/kg of zinc sulfate has been taken in three divided doses daily for 45 days.
  • For muscle cramps: 220 mg of zinc sulfate has been taken twice daily for 12 weeks.
  • For weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis): A combination of 15 mg of zinc combined with 5 mg of manganese, 1000 mg of calcium, and 2.5 mg of copper has been used.
  • For stomach ulcers: 300-900 mg of zinc acexamate has been taken in one to three divided doses daily for up to one year. Also, 220 mg of zinc sulfate has been taken three times daily for 3-6 weeks.
  • For bed sores (pressure ulcers): A standard hospital diet plus 9 grams of arginine, 500 mg of vitamin C, and 30 mg of zinc has been used daily for 3 weeks.
  • For sickle cell disease: 220 mg of zinc sulfate three times daily has been used. Also, 50-75 mg of elemental zinc taken daily in up to two divided doses for 2-3 years has been used.
  • For leg sores caused by weak blood circulation (venous leg ulcer): 220 mg of zinc sulfate taken three times daily has been used along with ulcer dressings.
  • For warts: 400-600 mg of zinc sulfate daily for 2-3 months.


  • For acne: Zinc acetate 1.2% with erythromycin 4% as a lotion applied twice daily.
  • For foot sores in people with diabetes: A zinc hyaluronate gel has been applied once daily to ulcers until healed.
  • For a mild form of gum disease (gingivitis): Toothpaste containing 0.2% to 2% zinc citrate alone or with sodium monofluorophosphate or 0.2% triclosan, have been used at least two times daily for up to 7 months. A mouth rinse containing 0.4% zinc sulfate and 0.15% triclosan has also been used.
  • For bad breath: Two zinc-containing mouth rinses called Halita and Meridol have been used as single doses or twice daily for 7 days. Candies and chewing gums containing zinc have also been used.
  • For cold sores (herpes labialis): Zinc sulfate 0.025% to 0.25% applied 8 to 10 times daily or zinc oxide 0.3% with glycine applied every 2 hours while awake has been used. Specific products containing zinc (Virudermin Gel, Robugen GmbH, SuperLysine Plus +, Quantum Health, Inc., Herpigon) have also been used.
  • For bed sores (pressure ulcers): A zinc oxide paste has applied daily along with standard care for 8-12 weeks.
  • For leg sores caused by weak blood circulation (venous leg ulcer): A paste containing zinc oxide 25% has been applied as a dressing once daily for the first 14 days of treatment and every third day thereafter for 8 weeks.
  • For warts: A zinc oxide 20% ointment has been applied twice daily for 3 months or until cured. Zinc sulfate 5% to 10% has been applied to the skin three times daily for 4 weeks..


  • For burns: An injectable solution containing 59 mcmol of copper, 4.8 mcmol of selenium, and 574 mcmol of zinc has been used for 14-21 days.
  • For reduced ability to taste (hypogeusia): A zinc solution has been added to 10 L of commercially available dialysis concentrate for 12 weeks.
  • For a skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions): An injection of zinc sulfate 2% for 6 weeks has been used.



  • General: The Institute of Medicine has established Adequate Intake (AI) levels of zinc for infants from birth to 6 months is 2 mg/day. For older infants and children, Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) quantities of zinc have been established: infants and children 7 months to 3 years, 3 mg/day; 4 to 8 years, 5 mg/day; 9 to 13 years, 8 mg/day; girls 14 to 18 years, 9 mg/day. The Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) of zinc for people who are not receiving zinc under medical supervision: Infants birth to 6 months, 4 mg/day; 7 to 12 months, 5 mg/day; children 1 to 3 years, 7 mg/day; 4 to 8 years, 12 mg/day; 9 to 13 years, 23 mg/day; and 14 to 18 years (including pregnancy and lactation), 34 mg/day.
  • For a disorder of zinc deficiency (acrodermatitis enteropathica): Taking 2-3 mg/kg of elemental zinc daily for a lifetime is recommended for treating an inherited disorder that affects zinc uptake.
  • For an eating disorder (anorexia nervosa): 14-50 mg of elemental zinc has been used daily.
  • For attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): 55-150 mg of zinc sulfate containing 15-40 mg of elemental zinc has been taken daily for 6-12 weeks.
  • For the common cold: One lozenge containing 10-23 mg of zinc gluconate, dissolved in the mouth every two hours has been used for up to 10 days. A syrup containing 15 mg of zinc has also been used twice daily for up to 10 days.
  • For diaper rash: 10 mg of zinc has been taken daily from the first or second day of life until 4 months of age.
  • For diarrhea: 10-40 mg of elemental zinc has been taken daily for 7-15 days to treat diarrhea in malnourished or zinc-deficient children.
  • For a skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions): 2.5-10 mg/kg of zinc sulfate taken in three divided doses daily has been used for 45 days.
  • For pneumonia: In developing countries, 10-70 mg of elemental zinc has been taken daily in undernourished children aged 3 months to 5 years. Also, 2 mg/kg of zinc sulfate has been taken daily in two divided doses for 5 days.
  • For illness from a Shigella bacteria infection (shigellosis): Multivitamin syrup containing 20 mg of elemental zinc has been used in two divided doses daily for 2 weeks.
  • For sickle cell disease: 10 mg of elemental zinc has been taken daily for one year in children 4-10 years of age. Also, 15 mg of elemental zinc has been taken twice daily for one year in boys aged 14-18 years.
  • For leg sores caused by weak blood circulation (venous leg ulcer): 220 mg of zinc sulfate has been used three times daily along with ulcer dressings.
  • For vitamin A deficiency: 20 mg of elemental zinc has been taken daily for 14 days, with 200,000 IU of vitamin A on day 14, has been used in children 1-3 years of age.


  • For acne: Zinc acetate 1.2% with erythromycin 4% as a lotion applied twice daily for 12-40 weeks.
  • For diaper rash: A zinc oxide paste containing allantoin 0.5%, cod liver oil 17%, and zinc oxide 47% has been used for 5 days.


  • For skin infection caused by Leishmania parasites (Leishmania lesions): An injection of zinc sulfate 2% for 6 weeks has been used.
  • Palm R, Hallmans G. Zinc and copper metabolism in phenytoin therapy. Epilepsia 1982;23:453-61. View abstract.
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  • Thomas DJ, Chisholm JJ. Lead, zinc, and copper decorporation during calcium disodium ethylenediamine tetraacetate treatment of lead-poisoned children. J Pharmacol Exp Ther 1986;239:829-35. View abstract.
  • Tie HT, Tan Q, Luo MZ, Li Q, Yu JL, Wu QC. Zinc as an adjunct to antibiotics for the treatment of severe pneumonia in children Yes. I have purchased and intend to refill.

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Zinc Options Explained

Our evidence-based analysis on zinc features 386 unique references to scientific papers.

This page is regularly updated, to include the most recently available clinical trial evidence.

Each member of our research team is required to have no conflicts of interest, including with supplement manufacturers, food companies, and industry funders. The team includes nutrition researchers, registered dietitians, physicians, and pharmacists. We have a strict editorial process.

This page features 386 references. All factual claims are followed by specifically-applicable references. Click here to see the full set of references for this page.

NOTE: We are updating our coronavirus (COVID-19) page with evidence as it comes in.

Primary information, health benefits, side effects, usage, and other important details

It is invalid to extrapolate from efficacy against the common cold or respiratory tract infections broadly to the novel coronavirus in particular. For more information, see our page on COVID-19.

What is zinc?

Zinc is an essential dietary mineral that has numerous roles in the body, most notably as a catalytic and structural element in hundreds of metalloproteins. Meat, egg, and legume products are common sources. Oysters are particularly good sources of zinc.

What are zinc’s benefits?

Any benefits of oral zinc supplements or increased dietary intake will depend on the zinc status of the individual. Some research suggests that when zinc levels are low, insulin sensitivity and testosterone can decrease, and supplementation can bring levels closer to normal.

Zinc lozenges, in high doses, seem to reduce the duration of common colds, though it’s unclear if they reduce the risk of getting colds in the first place or the severity of symptoms. Their effects are largely limited to throat and nasal symptoms, and high doses tend to come with some mild but notable side-effects like nausea and metallic taste in the mouth. Zinc lozenges have not been studied for COVID-19 and extrapolation from colds to COVID-19 is invalid. For more information, see this page.

Other areas of note are depression and acne, which can frequently benefit from increased zinc intake if levels are low.

Zinc is lost through sweat, making supplementation very important for athletes that don’t get a lot of zinc through food. Insulin resistance can also decrease zinc levels.

What are zinc’s side effects and drawbacks?

Large doses of zinc can produce nausea and other forms of gastrointestinal upset, particularly when taken on an empty stomach. Large doses of zinc can also cause a copper deficiency and lead to overdose. Many supplements use far more than the RDA, and a combination of supplements, fortified foods, and high zinc foods may lead to exceeding the tolerable upper intake level for adults, which is 40 mg per day. High dose zinc lozenges can lead to nausea and a metallic taste in the mouth, and should only be taken for a short time, if at all.

What problems does a zinc deficiency cause?

Zinc deficiency in childhood can impair growth. In adults, zinc deficiency can result in hypogonadism in men, as well as mental lethargy, depression, and skin abnormalities. Low levels of zinc due to diabetes can further worsen insulin resistance. It is estimated that inadequate zinc intake affects around 10% of persons in the US, but global insufficiency rates are over 50%.

Why copper is less reactive than zinc.explain by using electronic configuration?

a kJUU d lLm iI b Kubu y k oUKc R zkS a MYgj g IPD i E n D g WDpMP U B x u L l sOFO l SGOF , wd Xtn L lnZu L uoScO C I

Copper has electron configuration [Ar] 3d10 4s1 while zinc has [Ar] 3d10 4s2.

In aqueous solution, metals generally form positive ions by losing their outer electrons.

The energetics of this process involves the electron configuration of the atom and that of the ion as well as that of the solute, and there are considerations of entropy too, so one should not make blanket statements. But you have the right order of reactivity of the two metals in aqueous solution.

Here the outermost electrons are in the 4s orbital for both zinc and copper, but Zn has two electrons in the 4s while Cu only has o.

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