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Why It’s Time to Think About Adding Zinc to Your Diet

Bulk Nutrients Ambassador Louise Calvert in the gym pushing a weight sled

What is Zinc?

Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral that is vital for the healthy functioning of the human body. Zinc is required as a cofactor for more than 300 different enzymes.

Research has shown Zinc may have the potential to enhance immune function, stabilise blood sugar levels, and support the health of our skin, eyes and health.

Are you getting enough Zinc in your diet? Let’s look at some of the potential benefits.

Zinc for the Immune System

Part of many multivitamin supplements, Zinc is something regularly reached for by people when they’re starting to experience symptoms of a common cold, due to its ability to help boost immune function and fight inflammation.

One literature review revealed that lozenges containing zinc gluconate may reduce the duration of the common cold by up to 33%, while another saw some evidence that zinc could prevent symptoms and shorten the duration of some respiratory tract infections.

Zinc may also act as an antioxidant, reducing inflammation and protecting against chronic conditions. One study found that in the elderly population, supplementing zinc saw the incidence of infections decreased by nearly two-thirds.

Zinc for Blood Sugar

Some research has shown that zinc may help keep blood sugar levels steady, and improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

A review suggested that low levels of zinc could be linked to impaired blood sugar levels, while another study has shown zinc can help reduce insulin resistance, which can help improve the body’s ability to use insulin to efficiently maintain normal blood sugar levels.

Zinc’s Benefits for Skin

Zinc also has the potential to impact skin health. Zinc oxide is a popular type of physical sunscreen for people to wear outdoors during physical activity, while zinc sulfate has been shown to help decrease acne symptoms.

One particularly promising review for people with acne discovered that they generally tend to have lower levels of zinc in their blood than those without, but supplements were able to help increase the levels, and decrease the average amount of inflammatory pimples popping up due to the condition.

This suggests zinc may be an effective supplement to take by acne prone individuals, as it is relatively inexpensive and easy.

Zinc for Heart Health

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of disease across Australia, and the world. There has been an increasing amount of research into how to improve risk factors for heart disease, with some studies showing zinc may help improve risk factors like cholesterol levels.

One review detailed the effects of zinc supplements on levels of total and bad cholesterol, and blood triglycerides. It discovered that zinc helped decrease the levels, potentially helping to prevent heart disease and other cholesterol related co-morbidities.

Another literature analysis revealed zinc supplements could help reduce systolic blood pressure levels (the top number on a blood pressure reading).

While literature reviews like these are promising, research on the effects of zinc supplements on blood pressure is limited at this stage, with more research needed to consider strengths and weaknesses.

Zinc for Eye Health

Zinc supplements have been used to slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a common eye disease and one of the leading causes of blindness across the world.

A 2014 study of 72 people with macular degeneration found that 50 milligrams of zinc sulfate per day for three months helped slow down disease progression.

Another literature review published in 2021 recommended a zinc supplement to slow down macular degeneration, claiming it may help nutrient flow into the retina to protect against the disease.

All good things have balance, with some research suggesting that zinc supplements alone may not significantly improve vision and should be paired with other treatment options, and as such more research is underway into the connection between zinc and eye health.

What is Chelated Zinc?

Zinc Amino Acid Chelate, otherwise known as Amino Acid-Chelated Zinc, Chelated Zinc or Zinc Chelate, is a zinc supplement that’s easily absorbed in the body because it’s attached to a chelating agent, a substance that bonds with zinc to aid absorption. 

How Much Zinc Should I Take?

It’s recommended you contact a medical specialist before adding a zinc supplement to your diet, as different levels are needed depending on how much zinc is in your blood, and what you are wanting a zinc supplement to benefit.

The right amount of zinc differs depending on gender and age. It’s important not to have too much zinc in your diet as it can cause side effects including stomach cramps and nausea, however too little zinc, while uncommon, has been linked to symptoms such as hair loss and slow growth in children and adolescents.

Bulk Nutrients Expert - Ebony Abblitt

Ebony Abblitt

Ebony is our resident wordsmith here at Bulk! A reforming journalist and a graduate of the University of Tasmania, she's our resident copywriter, cat mum, pilates princess and (self appointed) Chief Swiftie!

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References:

  1. Hemilä, H. (2017). Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. JRSM Open, 8(5), p.205427041769429. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/2054270417694291.
  2. ‌Hunter, J., Arentz, S., Goldenberg, J., Yang, G., Beardsley, J., Myers, S.P., Mertz, D. and Leeder, S. (2021). Zinc for the prevention or treatment of acute viral respiratory tract infections in adults: a rapid systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BMJ Open, [online] 11(11), p.e047474. doi:https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047474.
  3. ‌Prasad, A.S. (2014). Zinc is an Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Agent: Its Role in Human Health. Frontiers in Nutrition, [online] 1. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2014.00014.
  4. ‌Tolino, E., Nevena Skroza, Mambrin, A., Proietti, I., Bernardini, N., Balduzzi, V., Marchesiello, A., Marco Di Fraia, Michelini, S. and Potenza, C. (2021). An Open-label Study Comparing Oral Zinc to Lymecycline in the Treatment of Acne Vulgaris. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 14(5), pp.56–58.
  5. ‌Yee, B.E., Richards, P., Sui, J.Y. and Marsch, A.Fleming. (2020). Serum zinc levels and efficacy of zinc treatment in acne vulgaris: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Dermatologic Therapy, 33(6). doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/dth.14252.
  6. ‌Mousavi, S.M., Mofrad, M.D., do Nascimento, I.J.B., Milajerdi, A., Mokhtari, T. and Esmaillzadeh, A. (2020). The effect of zinc supplementation on blood pressure: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials. European Journal of Nutrition. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-020-02204-5.
  7. ‌Smailhodzic, D., van Asten, F., Blom, A.M., Mohlin, F.C., den Hollander, A.I., van de Ven, J.P.H., van Huet, R.A.C., Groenewoud, J.M.M., Tian, Y., Berendschot, T.T.J.M., Lechanteur, Y.T.E., Fauser, S., de Bruijn, C., Daha, M.R., van der Wilt, G.J., Hoyng, C.B. and Klevering, B.J. (2014). Zinc Supplementation Inhibits Complement Activation in Age-Related Macular Degeneration. PLoS ONE, [online] 9(11), p.e112682. doi:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0112682.
  8. ‌van Leeuwen, R. (2005). Dietary Intake of Antioxidants and Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. JAMA, [online] 294(24), p.3101. doi:https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.294.24.3101.
  9. ‌Khoo, H., Ng, H., Yap, W.-S., Goh, H. and Yim, H. (2019). Nutrients for Prevention of Macular Degeneration and Eye-Related Diseases. Antioxidants, [online] 8(4), p.85. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox8040085.
  10. ‌Zhang, L., Guo, Q., Duan, Y., Lin, X., Ni, H., Zhou, C. and Li, F. (2022). Comparison of the Effects of Inorganic or Amino Acid-Chelated Zinc on Mouse Myoblast Growth in vitro and Growth Performance and Carcass Traits in Growing-Finishing Pigs. Frontiers in Nutrition, 9. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.857393.

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