Zinc – Essential Supplement for Immunity

by | Aug 3, 2023 | Nutrition, Supplements, Vitamin's & Minerals

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Discover the superpower of zinc and zinc supplements for enhanced well-being, better immunity, healthier skin & nails, improved hair growth and better moods!

This overlooked essential mineral works tirelessly to shield your body against infections by giving a powerful boost to your immune system, all without breaking the bank. Elevate your wellness-routine with a top-notch zinc supplement, a smart move to equip your body with the immune support it craves, especially in our modern-day stressful and often challenging times.

This essential mineral is critical to many bodily processes: From normal cell development to protein synthesis, zinc is the true champion, being a necessary key component in over 300 enzymes. Without it, our immune-system literally can not function: for example, many antibodies to fight viruses and bacteria could simply not be produced in our body without enough zinc. Meaning, we will get ill quicker or take longer to recover from illness.

We get our daily zinc intake usually through food. However high caffeine consumption, stress, and our often unhealthy modern day-diets and lifestyle can lead to a zinc deficiency. Zinc supplements can bridge this gap. Adding a quality zinc supplement to your daily routine is thus a smart way to give your body the immune support it needs and to improve your overall well-being, your mood and your skin.

A world without zinc would literally render our immune system powerless. So, gear up and let zinc be your ultimate defender!

This article aims to help you understand what this essential mineral does in the body and how important zinc really is. Plus, it guides you through the jungle of zinc supplementation, providing you with the information you need to make a well-informed decision when buying your next zinc supplement.

Zinc & Immunity

First of all, let’s look at zinc deficiency symptoms & where you can find zinc naturally in foods.

Research has demonstrated that zinc plays a critical role in our immune system functioning.

It helps to promote the growth of T and B cells (lymphocytes), macrophages and phagocytosis, while also aiding healthy skin and wound healing.

According to Anthony William, zinc also plays an essential role in our liver’s functioning and is a critical ally when it comes to autoimmune conditions, adrenal health, chronic fatigue and inflammation [1].

In short, the metabolism of the human body cannot function without zinc. Given that our body cannot produce zinc itself, we need to ensure that we supply enough zinc, either naturally through foods or by adding a zinc supplement to our daily routine. Unfortunately, due to our soils being increasingly deficient in minerals, the zinc levels in our foods are much lower than they used to be just 60 years ago [2].

Additionally, modern-day stressors, environmental toxins, and pathogens can deplete our body’s natural zinc reserves. The covid pandemic has also cast a new light on the subject, making it even more vital for the individual to keep the immune systems strong. Thus, making a good zinc supplement an important part of our daily routine.

When it comes to zinc supplementation, however, consumers are faced with an abundance of different products, making it difficult to know which supplements to choose and which brands are of good quality. But before we dive into supplementation, let’s look at possible signs of zinc-deficiency first.

Possible Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

  • Depressive moods or depression
  • Lack of drive / demotivation
  • Problems concentrating
  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Impaired sense of taste and smell
  • Poor wound healing
  • Being prone to fungal skin infections
  • Skin diseases
  • Damaged oral mucosa
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Dry Skin
  • Brittle Nails

I myself used to suffer from bad black-heads on my nose, very brittle nails and very dry skin on my face. Once I started supplementing with zinc, all these symptoms dramatically improved! If you feel you could be lacking in zinc, you should first try to improve your zinc intake by upping these foods in your weekly diet-regime.


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zinc rich foods

Foods Rich in Zinc:

1. Eating foods high in zinc, such as shellfish, beef, dairy, whole grains, nuts, and legumes, can help to boost immunity and aid in recovery from illnesses. If you’re vegan or vegetarian ensure you know which vegetables and legumes contain enough zinc, and mix these into your daily diet regime.

2. Zinc-rich foods are also essential for healthy hair, skin, and nails, as well as normal growth and development.

  • Animal products: beef, liver
  • Seafoods: oysters, crab, shrimps, mussels
  • Vegetables: mushrooms, spinach, shiitake mushrooms, radishes, artichokes,
    swiss chard, broccoli
  • Herbs: nettle leaf, parsley
  • Legumes: beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Nuts: walnuts, cashew nuts, almons
  • Seeds: sprouted seeds, chia seeds, quinoa, ground linseed,
    hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds
  • Oats
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Bananas

zinc immunity supplement

Interesting Zinc Facts:

  • People that sweat a lot are subject to more zinc loss; for example athletes, those in hot climates, and menopausal women
  • Zinc absorption appears to be decreased in the elderly.
  • Zinc absorption can be increased with dietary protein intake.
  • Phytates in cereals and soy inhibit absorption of zinc (always soak your grains / cereal / seeds over night before using)
  • Casein in milk and calcium inhibit absorption by binding with zinc ions.
  • Iron inhibits absorption of zinc. Cadmium-toxic levels can inhibit zinc absorption
  • Zinc should be taken on an empty stomach whenever possible. Take your zinc tablet(s) at least 30 minutes before a meal.
  • If you take zinc directly with your meal, avoid foods with a high phytic acid content (e.g. cereals, legumes, nuts). Because this inhibits zinc absorption.
  • Coffee and beverages containing tanning agents such as black or green tea can impair the absorption of zinc.
  • If there is a zinc deficiency, it can be useful and necessary to take high-dosages of zinc (up to 25 mg per day or more).
  • If in doubt, ask an alternative practitioner how best to take your zinc supplement.

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Zinc Supplements:

Zinc supplements come in tablets, capsule, powder or liquid forms.

For all products you should look out for those being vegan and without the following list of unnecessary additives.

AVOID:

  • Maltodextrin
  • Alcohol
  • Dextrose
  • ‘Natural’ flavours
  • Magnesium stearate (being a very controversial additive in nutritional supplementation)
  • All chemical and non-chemical sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame, and so forth.
  • GMO content
  • Soya
  • Gluten

When buying capsules, only buy products where the capsule shell is made from microcrystalline cellulose. This is a vegetable fiber that is not absorbed by the body and is excreted undigested. It is therefore a very safe and harmless substance.

zinc

Zinc Compounds

It is important to know that in supplements, zinc needs to be bound to a compound. These are also often called chelating agents. Chelating agents are chemical compounds that bond with metal ions (such as zinc) to create a stable, water-soluble product that can be easily absorbed by the body.


There’s two types of compounds: inorganic compounds and organic compounds.

These come in the form of organic acids (such as citric acid), complexing agents such (as amino acids), or salts (-sulfate, -oxide, -carbonate). These are divided into two groups: organic – and inorganic compounds.

inorganic zinc compounds
  • Zinc sulfate: Zinc bound to sulfate, the salt of sulfuric acid
  • Zinc carbonate: Zinc bound to carbonate, the salt of carbonic acid
  • Zinc oxide: compound of zinc and oxygen (used in skin creams administered for wound healing)
  • Zinc bisglycinate: Zinc bound to the amino acid glycine
  • Zinc citrate: Zinc bound to citrate, the salt of citric acid
  • Zinc gluconate: Zinc bound to gluconate, the salt of gluconic acid
  • Zinc aspartate: Zinc bound to aspartate, the salt of aspartic acid
  • Zinc orotate: Zinc bound to orotate, the salt of orotic acid
  • Zinc histidine: Zinc bound to the amino acid histidine
  • Zinc picolinate: Zinc bound to picolinate, the salt of picolinic acid
  • Zinc malate: zinc bound to malate, the salt of malic acid

When examining zinc supplements, you’ll likely find that one of the above compounds is included in the product. Some companies may even provide a blend of various zinc compounds in their products. They explain that each compound is absorbed and metabolized differently by the body, so combining different types can offer improved bioavailability and compatibility.

trace mineral for immunity

Bioavailability

What is bioavailability?

Wikipedia states:

‘Bioavailability is a pharmacological measure of the proportion of an active ingredient that is available unchanged in the systemic circulation (especially in the blood circulation). It indicates how quickly and to what extent the substance (mostly medicinal product) is absorbed (resorbed) and is available at the site of action’[3]

Bioavailability of Zinc Supplements

The bioavailability of zinc compounds varies greatly. Generally, organic zinc compounds have a higher bioavailability than inorganic zinc compounds.

Research shows that absorption is maximized when zinc is bound to an amino acid [4]. Compounds are also not equally studied; zinc-sulfate and zinc-histidine, for example, are the most studied forms, with zinc-sulfate often being used as a reference guide when comparing to other zinc-compounds [5]. Organic acids, such as citrate, can increase the bioavailability of zinc. Ascorbic acid, on the other hand, does not improve the availability of zinc [4].

Another good indicator for zinc absorption is how well the body tolerates the different forms of zinc, showing in Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as constipation and diarrhoea. As some studies suggest, the fewer side effects, the better the mineral is absorbed. The zinc chelate zinc bisglycinate seems to currently come up on top. Studies show that it is very well tolerated in terms of GI issues. [6].

Best Zinc Compounds

Drawing upon my research and personal experience, I have created this ranking of zinc compounds:

  • 1. Zinc bisglycinate: zinc bisglycinate has superior bioavailability than other zinc compounds, with one zinc molecule binding to two molecules of the amino acid glycine. Studies suggest it is almost 45% more absorbable than zinc gluconate and is well tolerated in the GI tract. [5,6]

  • 2. Zinc histidine: Studies show that the amino acid histidine increases the bioavailability of zinc, raising the concentration in blood serum threefold more than zinc sulfate. Zinc histidine is one of the best-researched forms of zinc and is considered highly tolerable. The World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted histidine as a complex partner for zinc in child nutrition[7].

  • 3. Zinc picolinate: Picolinic acid is found in our bodies and can break down metals like chromium, zinc, manganese and copper. Zinc picolinate is a well-absorbed form of zinc, better than zinc citrate and zinc gluconate. All three were tested relative to one another, and zinc absorption was improved mostly by zinc picolinate [8,9].

  • 4. Zinc gluconate: Zinc bound to gluconic acid is more bioavailable than zinc sulfate, according to studies. Studies also suggest similar absorption rates for zinc gluconate and zinc citrate. [10, 11]

  • 5. Zinc sulfate: Zinc sulfate is widely studied and used as a reference point for other forms of zinc [12]. However, at higher doses, it can cause unpleasant side effects such as vomiting and nausea [13]. Quality varies significantly due to variation in production*. Though usually lower in bioavailability than gluconate, histidine and bisglycinate [12, 14], zinc sulfate is highly recommended by A. Williams. He recommends a high quality zinc sulfate hepta hydrate. For this reason zinc sulfate ranks higher in my list here than otherwise research would suggest.

  • 6. Zinc citrate: Zinc citrate is an organic form of zinc, thought to be absorbed as well as other forms such as sulfate, gluconate, and bisglycinate. However, studies have shown that it does not lead to a change in serum levels [9] when taken as a supplement, making it less bioavailable and digestible than zinc sulfate.

  • 7.Zinc orotate: Zinc orotate has been marketed as a zinc supplement for years; however, studies suggest its bioavailability is low compared to zinc sulfate [15].

  • 8. Zinc aspartate: Studies show zinc aspartate has no advantages over zinc histidine or sulfate [15]. Furthermore, enteric-coated tablets of zinc aspartate are poorly absorbed [17].

  • 9. Zinc oxide: Zinc oxide is utilized in wound healing and ointments, as well as an active ingredient for oral supplementation. However, it has a low bioavailability (61%) compared to zinc sulfate [14]. Further research has shown it to be an unsuitable compound for patients with disorders of gastric acid production [18].



    *Note: The quality of ALL zinc products on the market can vary depending on production and quality of brand. Therefore, always look out for high quality supplements that are free of fillers, binders and any other unnecessary ingredients such as natural flavours, alcohol, etc.

    **Note: There are plenty more zinc compounds on the market than in my list of compounds above. If you find a zinc compound in your product that is not in the list above, I suggest you always do your own research or write to the customer-care team of your preferred supplement brand for more information.

Zinc Side Effects:

Taking zinc supplements can cause side effects depending on the individual, as everyone responds differently to nutritional supplements. Generally, side effects are uncommon when daily intake guidelines are followed. However, some of the more common side effects include symptoms of the GI tract such as diarrhea and stomach cramps, as well as nausea or headaches. This can be due to taking too high a dosage, a low quality product, or individual sensitivities. Therefore, make sure to use a good quality product and start with a low dosage to ensure that you are not overly sensitive to the supplement. Once you have determined that you can tolerate the supplement, you can increase the dosage.

Dosage and Absorption:

The German Nutrition Society has recently revised its reference values for zinc intake, recommending that women consume between 7 mg and 10 mg and men between 11 mg and 16 mg daily. The previous values were 7 mg and 10 mg for women and men, respectively. However, I believe these values to be too low, as not all zinc supplements are efficiently absorbed depending on an individual’s diet quality, GI tract functioning, and other factors. For this reason, I would typically recommend an average dose of 15mg to 25mg of zinc per day or every two days, depending on the severity of zinc deficiency or related health issues.

My top Zinc Supplements:

Zink Komplex Ultra Plus C Sunday Natural

Zink Komplex Ultra Plus C by Sunday Natural. This zinc complex supplies 25 mg of zinc per capsule from 8 different forms of zinc, plus 100 mg of premium vitamin C. which combines vitamin C with plant-based fatty acids and citrus bioflavonoids. Supports the immune system as well as fertility, fat metabolism, vision, skin, hair, nails and protein synthesis

Zinc supplement natural elements

Zink Bisglycinat by Natural Elements. Great value for money, good absorbability, 25 mg pro tablet, no fillers, no binders, no nasties, I always feel good when taking this supplement.

Zink 25mg by Feel Natural. These good-quality zinc tablets are highly dosed with 25 mg zinc per daily dose. Made with well tolerated zinc bisglycinate (zinc chelate) in these zinc products, one bottle contains 365 tablets, which corresponds to a practical annual supply.

Liquid Zinc Sulfate Vimergy

Liquid Zinc Sulfate by Vimergy. High quality liquid zinc sulfate (as zinc sulfate heptahydrate) as recommended by Anthony William.

Life extension Europe Zinc Caps 50mg

Zinc Caps 50mg by Life Extension Europe. A powerhouse of 50 mg zinc per capsule, containing of zinc monomethionine and zinc citrate. I’ve used this product when I had acute deficiency or felt a cold or flu coming on. Great value for money.

References

[1] Vgl. https://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/zinc-essential-mineral-for-health , accessed on 26.02.2021

[2] Vgl. Wikipedia Zink -biologische Bedeutung accessed on 01.03.2021

[3] Vgl.  https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioverf%C3%BCgbarkeit accessed 02.02.2021

[4] Vgl. Hahn, A.; Schuchardt, J. P. “Physiologische und klinische Bedeutung von Zink” Schweizer Zeitschrift für Ernährungsmedizin, accessed on 01.03.2021

[5] Vgl. Mittmann, U. (2001): “Bioverfügbarkeit von Zinkpräparaten”, Deutsche Apotheker Zeitung, accessed on 01.03.2021

[6] DiSilvestro R, Hart S, Marshall T, et al. Enhanced aerobic exercise performance in women by a combination of three mineral chelates plus two conditionally essential nutrients. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 2017;14:42.

[7] Scholmerich J, Freudemann A, Kottgen E, Wietholtz H, Steiert B, Lohle E, et al. Bioavailability of zinc from zinc-histidine complexes. I. Comparison with zinc sulfate in healthy men. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 1987 Jun;45(6):1480-6. PubMed PMID: 3591728.

[8 ]Vgl. https://www.eistria.com/de/zinkpicolinat-als-immunverstaerker-und-kaempfer-gegen-chronische-krankheiten accessed on 02.09.2021

[9] Barrie SA, Wright JV, Pizzorno JE, Kutter E, Barron PC. Comparative absorption of zinc picolinate, zinc citrate and zinc gluconate in humans. Agents Actions 1987; 21 (1 – 2): 223 – 228. 

[10]  Der Freie Arzt, Zinkpräparate und ihre Bioverfügbarkeit, Heinz-Theo Gremme, 43. Jahrgang, 3. Quartal 2002, S. 3.

[11] Neve J, Hanocq M, Peretz A, Abi Khalil F, Pelen F. Etude de quelques facteurs influencant la biodisponibilité du zinc dans les formes pharmaceutiques ą usage oral. J Pharm Belg 1993; 48 (1): 5 – 11

[12]  Vgl. Hahn, A.; Schuchardt, J. P. “Physiologische und klinische Bedeutung von Zink” Schweizer Zeitschrift für Ernährungsmedizin, abgerufen am 01.03.2021

[13] Samman S, Roberts DC. The effect of zinc supplements on plasma zinc and copper levels and the reported symptoms in healthy volunteers. Med J Aust 1987; 146 (5): 246 – 249.

[14] Wedekind KJ, Hortin AE, Baker DH. Methodology for assessing zinc bioavailability: efficacy estimates for zinc-methionine, zinc sulfate, and zinc oxide. 

[15] Schölmerich J, Freudemann A, Köttgen E, Wietholtz H, Steiert B, Löhle E et al. Bioavailability of zinc from zinc-histidine complexes. I. Comparison with zinc sulfate in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr 1987; 45 (6): 1480 – 1486.

[16] Andermann G, Dietz M. The bioavailability and pharmacokinetics of three zinc salts: zinc pantothenate, zinc sulfate and zinc orotate. Eur J Drug Metab Pharmacokinet 1982; 7

[17] Duisterwinkel FJ, Wolthers BG, Koopman BJ, Muskiet FAJ, Van der Slik W. Bioavailability of orally administered zinc, using Taurizine. Pharm Weekbl [Sci Ed] 1986; 8: 85 – 88. 

[18] Henderson LM, Brewer GJ, Dressman JB, Swidan SZ, DuRoss DJ, Adair CH et al. Effect of intragastric pH on the absorption of oral zinc acetate and zinc oxide in young healthy volunteers. J Parenter Enteral Nutr 1995; 19 (5): 393 – 397.

[19] [Guillard O, Saux MC, Hazane C, Dumas C, Courtois P. Pharmacocinétique comparee du sulfate et du pantothénate de zinc. Ann Pharm franć 1978; 36 (11 – 12): 669-676.

[20] Wedekind KJ, Hortin AE, Baker DH. Methodology for assessing zinc bioavailability: efficacy estimates for zinc-methionine, zinc sulfate, and zinc oxide. J Anim Sci 1992; 70 (1): 178 – 187.

[21] Lönnerdal B. Dietary factors influencing zinc absorption. J Nutr 2000; 130 (Suppl.): 1378S – 1383S.

[22] Vgl.  https://www.medicalmedium.com/blog/zinc-essential-mineral-for-health accessed on 10.10.2021

[23] Vgl. https://www.pfefferminzia.de/serie-zu-essenziellen-aminosaeuren-teil-iii-das-schutzschild-methionin/ accessed on 12.09.2021

[24] Vgl. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17012778/ aufgerufen accessed on 12.09.2021

[25] Gandia P, Bour D, Maurette J-M, et al. A bioavailability study comparing two oral formulations of zinc (Zn bis-glycinate vs. Zn gluconate) after a single administration to twelve healthy female volunteers. Int J Vitamin Nutr Res 2007;77(4):243-248.