Nutrient Spotlight: Zinc – Deficiencies and Why Your Body Needs It
By Aidanne MacDonald-Milewski, ND • September 10, 2020
Zinc is a common nutrient deficiency caught on blood work by Naturopathic doctors. It plays an essential role in establishing healthy growth and development, as well as supporting the immune and nervous systems. It acts as a catalyst in hundreds of different bodily reactions, contributes to the structure of our genes, supports spermatogenesis, helps your white blood cells differentiate in order to fight infections, etc.1
In the event of dietary inadequacy, malabsorptive conditions, cirrhosis of the liver or long-term use of certain medications (i.e. NSAIDs, Corticosteriods, OCP, ACE inhibitors, Diuretics, Cimetidine, Famotidine, etc.2), zinc stores can be tapped into and depleted. Symptoms of zinc deficiency can include the following:
- Dermatitis or poor wound healing
- Impaired immune function
- Impaired sense of taste or appetite
- Hair loss
- White spots on the finger nails
- Delayed growth or maturation
- Low libido or impotence
- Altered mood or sense of wellbeing
The reference range for serum zinc levels is generally 60-120ug/dL, yet optimal rests between 80-120ug/dL. Standard doses of zinc for general wellness and immune support range from 15-50mg daily. Its absorption can be inhibited by concurrent use of iron, magnesium, and calcium, so try to take this away from other micronutrients if possible for best absorption. Zinc picolinate is considered the most absorbable form.
In addition to supplementation, zinc can be obtained through the diet! Foods rich in zinc include oysters, poultry, pumpkin seeds, chick peas, almonds, cashews, kidney beans, peas, and Greek yogurt.
In addition to its immune and development supporting effects, zinc supplementation was recently concluded to show benefit in reducing severity of acne lesions, lowering systolic blood pressure, reducing incidence of radiation induced taste changes, and improving lipid parameters in those with type 2 diabetes.3,4,5,6
To ensure that you are getting the appropriate amount of zinc for you, talk to your Naturopathic doctor about serum zinc testing and appropriate dosing!
*Disclaimer: Despite claims to the contrary, at this time there is no good evidence to support using zinc to prevent, manage, or cure COVID-19.1
1. Zinc Professional Monograph. Natural Medicines Database. Accessed from: https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=982#effectiveness. Updated: August 19th, 2020. Accessed: September 1st, 2020.
2. Drugs that Deplete: Zinc. Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Accessed from: http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=000728. Accessed: September 1st, 2020.
3. Yee BE, Richards P, Sui JY, Marsch AF. Serum zinc levels and efficacy of zinc treatment in acne vulgaris: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Dermatol Ther. 2020:e14252.
4. Mousavi SM, Mofrad MD, Do nascimento IJB, Milajerdi A, Mokhtari T, Esmaillzadeh A. The effect of zinc supplementation on blood pressure: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials. Eur J Nutr. 2020;59(5):1815-1827.
5. Chi WJ, Myers JN, Frank SJ, et al. The effects of zinc on radiation-induced dysgeusia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Support Care Cancer. 2020.
6. Asbaghi O, Sadeghian M, Fouladvand F, et al. Effects of zinc supplementation on lipid profile in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2020;30(8):1260-1271.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.