If you need to find the best zinc supplement for your needs, there are many factors to consider. Zinc is an important mineral that supports normal immune system function, sense of smell, and more. You can get it from foods, but there are many reasons why your doctor might recommend a supplement.
In this article, we’ll explore why people might take zinc supplements and how to understand quality, dosage, when to take, and more.
Most people in the U.S. get enough zinc from food sources, but there are some factors that may lead to a higher risk for inadequate intake, deficiency, or problems absorbing this important mineral.
If your doctor suggests a zinc supplement, it’s important to follow their recommendations. Zinc and other minerals can accumulate in the body and can also disrupt the balance of other minerals if they are consumed at higher amounts. Zinc can also interact with medications, so it’s important to make sure that your doctor and pharmacist are aware of what you are taking.
When you choose a zinc supplement, you will want to consider the form of the nutrient, dosage, ingredients, quality, and more.
When you consider the form of a supplement, there are two aspects:
The form refers to the chemical structure of the nutrient. There are several forms of zinc, including zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc oxide, zinc sulfate, zinc acetate, zinc glycerate, zinc monomethionine, and more. Some older research indicates that some forms, like zinc citrate, may absorb better than zinc oxide, but newer studies are needed to compare the bioavailability of the different forms of zinc.
Zinc supplements come in several different formulations. These can include capsules, liquids, lozenges, gummies, or tablets. Zinc is also typically found in multivitamin and prenatal supplements. The way that you take zinc is typically less important than finding a formula that works for you. If you struggle to swallow capsules, consider a lozenge or liquid.
The dosage and serving size of zinc supplements vary. Zinc supplements typically range from 15–30 mg per serving. Because zinc is a mineral that can accumulate in the body, be mindful of your doctor’s recommendations.
The tolerable upper intake level for zinc is 40 mg per day for adults. While some medical providers may suggest short-term higher zinc intakes if a deficiency is present, long-term intakes higher than 40 mg can disrupt the copper-zinc balance, which can have a negative impact on the immune system and certain copper-dependent antioxidants and enzymes. Excessive zinc intake from supplements may also disrupt magnesium absorption.
When you choose a supplement, the ingredients and overall quality can make a big difference.
If you have allergies, sensitivities, dietary values, or other ingredient concerns it’s essential to closely read the supplement facts and additional ingredients label.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets regulatory standards for supplement manufacturers, it puts the burden of compliance on the companies themselves. Many brands have their products third-party tested, verified, or certified by independent organizations. This demonstrates trustworthiness to customers and helps to establish brand trust and reliability.
Some certifications to look for include:
Zinc is an essential mineral. It’s needed for a range of functions including everything from cell metabolism, DNA integrity, immune function to normal growth, development, and more. In the human body, zinc is primarily stored within the bones and skeletal muscles.
Healthcare providers can measure zinc in a person’s blood plasma or serum, although the tests are not perfect. A person’s age and the time of day can affect results, which can mean that the “normal range” isn’t always applicable. Zinc status in the blood can vary between morning and evening, regardless of dietary intake or supplement use. Certain exposures, hormone levels, weight loss, and more can also affect how zinc stores are accurately measured.
Healthcare providers may use risk factors associated with zinc to help determine a person’s likely zinc status. Those who have low food intake, malnutrition, gastrointestinal issues, or chronic alcohol use may have zinc supplements recommended even if their serum levels appear to be normal.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) maintains current data and benefits from vitamins and minerals. There are many benefits of zinc. Some of the most essential impacts are discussed below.
Your body needs zinc to maintain a healthy immune system. Zinc is needed for cell division, protein synthesis, and DNA replication. There are more than 300 zinc metalloproteins and more than 2,000 transcription factors that rely on zinc to properly express proteins.
Zinc supports the thymus and lymphatic system, which are important components of a healthy immune system response. All of these are necessary for every system in the body, but the immune system has to be a first responder to everyday exposures, and is especially dependent on rapid DNA and cellular responses.
Zinc supports healthy testosterone conversion in people born male. When zinc stores are inadequate or intake is low, this could make it harder for the body to maintain balanced hormone levels. A systematic review of studies noted that low zinc levels are consistently linked to reduced serum testosterone. The review confirmed the association between zinc and other trace minerals, and that healthcare providers should individualize supplementation to a patient’s nutrient needs.
More studies are needed to understand the specific dosage of zinc and length of supplementation protocol that may be best for testosterone support. Research looking at zinc and the association between sperm health and fertility parameters concluded that 50 mg of zinc supported sperm motility and testosterone balance, but that amount is higher than the tolerable upper intake level and should not be done without the recommendation and supervision of a medical provider.
Zinc supplements can cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach. Minerals absorb best when taken with food, but don’t take zinc at the same time as standalone calcium or iron supplements.
When zinc is taken at higher amounts, or levels become high for other reasons, this can lead to symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and nausea. Too much zinc can also lead to disruptions in copper mineral balance or iron deficiency.
Take zinc with a meal to avoid nausea or upset stomach. You can take zinc at any time of the day, but don’t take it with other medications or minerals unless your healthcare provider says otherwise.
Whether you take capsules, lozenges, liquids, or other types of zinc supplements, they tend to be digested and used similarly by the body.
The form of the nutrient may impact how well zinc absorbs, although research does not definitely answer the question as to which form is best. Forms of zinc that are considered to be more easily absorbed are zinc citrate, zinc bisglycinate, zinc picolinate, and zinc gluconate.
Yes, you can take zinc daily. However, you shouldn’t take zinc supplements unless your healthcare provider has suggested it. The tolerable upper intake level is 40 mg of zinc, so be sure to follow your medical provider’s recommendations and avoid taking too much.
There’s a lot of anecdotal information on the internet about zinc and hair. Some systematic reviews and literature have found that in certain contexts, zinc may support people who have hair loss. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider if you have hair loss, because there are many possible triggers. Taking zinc or other minerals if you don’t need them can lead to health issues on their own.
No, zinc supplements do not induce sleep or cause drowsiness. Research has found that zinc may help to modulate aspects of the central nervous system, including sleep, but the mechanisms are unknown. Having adequate zinc stores and intake is important for overall health, but zinc does not directly impact sleep.
Constipation is not a common side effect of zinc supplementation in adults. It can be recommended to replenish nutritional stores after acute diarrhea. However, unless zinc is consumed in excess, it is not typically linked with constipation or diarrhea.