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Zinc Supplements and Sources for Immune System Health

In uncertain times, like dealing with COVID-19, we are all focused on ways we can support our immunity to avoid getting sick. Zinc is a powerful immune-boosting micronutrient.

30 Apr 2020 • 5 MIN Vincent C. Giampapa M.D., FACS
Zinc Supplements and Sources for Immune System Health

In the uncertain times of COVID-19, we are all focused on ways we can support our immunity to avoid getting sick. The fact of the matter is, so many people wait until they feel a tickle in their throat before taking their vitamins, which by then it's too late.

We know the trick to keeping our immune system healthy and boosted comes way before signs and symptoms of a cold.

One best practice is to take your multivitamin daily instead of just during cold/flu season.

Vitamin C is typically the micronutrient people think of to ward off colds, but zinc is an overlooked and very powerful immune-boosting micronutrient.

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral that you need in your diet because your body cannot make enough of it on its own. You can make sure your body is nourished with adequate levels of zinc by eating zinc-rich foods or taking a nutrition supplement such as a multivitamin. Zinc is essential due to its many physiological health benefits.

Why is Zinc Important?

Zinc is a key nutrient for immune and cell health, as well as for fighting off diseases such as prostate cancer.

  • Immunity: Zinc is a major nutrient that supports your immune system. Your body needs zinc to create and use T-lymphocytes (T-cells), which are white blood cells that help fight infection and disease.[1,2] Zinc deficiency has been linked to a weaker immunity.[1]
  • Common Cold: Although it doesn't treat or cure it, under certain conditions zinc may have the ability to shorten a cold and reduce the severity of symptoms when taken at the first sign of a cold.[3]
  • Cell: Zinc is found in every cell of your body and is essential for cell growth and division.[1]
  • Disease: Zinc helps lower oxidative stress in your body which when left unmanaged can cause chronic inflammation. Lower inflammation has been associated with a reduced risk of developing age-related diseases such as cancer or heart disease.[4] Research has shown that zinc can turn off a certain complex that is present in prostate cancer cells, making it a nutrient that can possibly help with disease prevention.[5]

How Much Do You Need Daily?

The recommended daily dose for zinc is unique to a person's age, gender, and other personal factors. To provide a general guide, the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) established the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) to meet the needs of most healthy individuals. The RDA for zinc ranges between:[1]

  • Infants (0-12 months): 2-3 mg/day AI
  • Children (1-8 years): 3-5 mg/day
  • Adolescents (9-18 years): 8-11 mg/day
  • Adults (19+ years): 8-11 mg/day
  • Pregnant and nursing mothers: 11-13 mg/day

These are recommendations, and it's always a great idea to discuss your individual nutrient needs with your doctor. For example, if you're taking prescription medications such as antibiotics, there is the potential for an interaction that can weaken your body's absorption of both the medication and zinc.[6]

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Zinc Deficiency - Are You at Risk?

Zinc deficiency in the US is uncommon. If a deficiency is developed, typical symptoms include weakened immunity, impaired growth and development, lack of appetite, weight loss, reduced sense of taste and smell, and poor wound healing.[1,3] The following groups are at risk for developing a zinc deficiency:

  • Vegans and vegetarians: While plant-based diets offer plenty of zinc-rich foods, these options aren't optimal for absorption. These foods have high amounts of phytates, which are chemical compounds that bind to zinc, hindering absorption.[7]
  • Pregnant and nursing mothers: Nutrient requirements are heightened during this phase of life. The developing fetus requires higher levels of zinc, and this mineral is also transferred from the mother's own stores to a nursed baby during lactation.[1]
  • Those with digestive disorders or diseases: Certain digestive conditions such as Chron's, colitis, and short bowel syndrome can inhibit zinc absorption and even cause a zinc loss from the body's stores.[1]

Zinc Rich Food Sources

Most animal products have high amounts of zinc, but other healthy dietary sources for those following a plant-based diet include:[1]

  • Legumes like chickpeas, kidney beans, and peas
  • Nuts and seeds such as almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds
  • Oatmeal and Buckwheat

You can also get zinc from fortified foods cereals and nutrition supplements.

Best Zinc Supplements

The best supplements can sometimes be decided on what "other ingredients" are used to make and hold a supplement together. Believe it or not, a lot of products use harmful "other ingredients" which are located next to the supplement facts label. To get the most zinc supplement benefits, you'll want to steer clear from products that use:

  • Artificial colors and dyes - These dyes are used to create an aesthetically appealing appearance and add no nutritional value to your supplement. They have actually been linked to an increased risk of cancer, allergies, and hyperactivity in children.[8,9]
  • Magnesium stearate - A hydrogenated oil that prevents nutrient particles from sticking to machines during the manufacturing process. Hydrogenated oils are associated with high LDL (bad cholesterol) and a higher risk of developing heart disease.[10,11]
  • Sodium Benzoate - a commonly used additive to preserve and extend the shelf life. This preservative can react with Vitamin C, forming a carcinogen, and can also cause cellular damage.[12,13]
  • Titanium dioxide - another ingredient used for aesthetics to create the appearance of a clean, white pill, powder, or tablet. Studies have shown that titanium dioxide is linked to kidney damage and inflammation of the small intestine.[14,15]

Another helpful tip is to take a zinc supplement that also includes iron and vitamin A. When these 3 micronutrients are safely taken together, it improves the absorption of essential vitamin A.[16]

When it comes to dosages, more is not necessarily better. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adult men is 11 mg and 8 mg for adult women.[1] The FNB established a tolerable upper intake level (UL) of 40 mg for adults to prevent mega-dosing and adverse reactions like gastrointestinal distress, headaches, lower immunity, and hindering absorption of other micronutrients like copper, which compete with zinc for the same receptors in your body.[1,3,16,17] For healthy adults over 19 years, the daily consumption of zinc from foods and supplements should not exceed the UL of 40 mg.[3]

Zinc in Healthycell Products

Healthycell Pro, the multi-nutrient cellular health system, contains over 90 ingredients. There are 60+ phytonutrients, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and it replaces the need for a multivitamin- containing 15 mg of zinc in a day's dose. Healthycell Pro is a vegetarian product with unique AM and PM formulas for 24 hours of nutrition, making it a great option for someone who could use a boost in energy, focus, and sleep quality.

If swallowing pills is not your strong suit or if absorption is your main concern, liquid zinc supplements may be a better fit for you. Healthycell's microgel technology is a pill-free alternative way to supplement your diet that is 100% bioavailable. Vegan Essentials and Bioactive Multi both offer 11 mg of zinc that is delivered to specific places in your digestive tract, making these the optimal choices for absorption.