What to Look for In a Zinc Supplement
These days, choosing a zinc supplement can be tricky. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, meaning the wrong bottle could contain scary ingredients with dangerous health consequences.
So, how do you choose a zinc supplement that is both safe and effective for your immune health needs? Read on to discover the key factors to choosing a high-quality zinc supplement – and, as always, make sure to consult your doctor before taking any supplements!
What Type of Zinc Should I Take?
Pharmacy shelves offer so many types of supplements these days that it can be hard to keep track of what they all do! There are six different types of zinc alone.
For the best results, you should know what each form of zinc does before choosing which supplement is right for you:
Zinc gluconate, most often found in lozenges and nasal sprays, is the most common and least expensive form of zinc. Taking this type of zinc may reduce the severity and duration of the common cold. Other types of zinc include zinc sulfate, zinc orotate, and zinc citrate.
Most types of zinc supplements are taken orally or intranasally. However, zinc oxide ointment can be used to treat minor skin irritation, including diaper rash in babies and chapped skin in adults. It is even used in some sunscreen products to protect the skin from UV rays.
If you have been told by a doctor that you are deficient in zinc, contact a medical professional to discuss which type of zinc is best for you. Some forms of zinc are absorbed better than others, so it is important to make sure you’re taking the right one!
How Much Zinc Should I Take?
Not everyone absorbs zinc identically. As a result, different people should take different amounts of zinc.
Most people do not need to take a zinc supplement every day. You can use zinc supplements as needed to treat a cold or skin irritation. During cold and flu season, however, you might consider daily supplementation to prevent getting sick.
People who have zinc deficiencies may need to take more zinc than the average person. If you suffer from a zinc deficiency, your doctor may prescribe you a small daily dose of zinc, or a weekly “megadose” containing a large concentration of zinc. Always follow your doctor’s directions to ensure you are appropriately treating your zinc deficiency.
You should also pay attention to the dosage, or the number of milligrams of zinc in the supplement you’re buying. Most zinc supplements contain anywhere from 10 to 30 percent elemental zinc by weight, for a dosage of 5 to 10 mg. If you have a zinc deficiency diagnosed by a doctor, you may need to take higher doses of zinc than what is available over the counter.
You should never take more than 40 mg of zinc per day unless your doctor tells you to do so. The saying “too much of a good thing” applies to zinc supplements – and exceeding the Tolerable Upper Limit (TUL) of 40 mg per day may lead to harmful side effects.
Which Zinc Supplement Should I Buy?
We’re not talking about the brand – we’re talking about what’s inside the box! You need to pay attention to what type of product you’re buying to ensure you get the right zinc supplement for your unique needs.
Zinc supplements may be taken orally, as lozenges, pills, or liquids; topically, as skin creams; intranasally, as nasal sprays; and even rectally, as suppositories. Each type of zinc supplement is absorbed differently, so you will want to know which type of zinc works best for the condition you’re trying to treat.
Oral zinc lozenges or drops work best for preventing and treating the common cold, while topical agents work best for skin problems. Rectal suppositories are inserted into the rectum, usually to treat hemorrhoids.
While they are popular for promoting strong immune health, research suggests you may want to avoid zinc nasal sprays altogether, as some studies show they could lead to long-term loss of smell.
If you suffer from a zinc deficiency, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice for choosing the right zinc supplement for you. Most likely, they will prescribe you an oral form of zinc, such as a pill or tablet. Still, it is important to follow their directions to ensure you treat your deficiency appropriately.
As always, talk to a medical professional before you start taking zinc -- and choose your supplement carefully. Keep your eye on the type of zinc, the dosage amount, and the product being advertised when purchasing any zinc supplement. If you know what you’re looking for, finding a high-quality zinc supplement should be a breeze!
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Wegmuller, R. et. al. (2014). Zinc absorption by young adults from supplemental zinc citrate is comparable with that from zinc gluconate and higher than from zinc oxide. The Journal of Nutrition, 144(2). https://doi.org/10.3945/jn.113.181487
Zielinski, L. (2019, November 3). Taking zinc supplements: what are the health benefits? HealthGuide. https://www.getroman.com/health-guide/zinc-supplement/