Supplementing zinc can be highly beneficial for your health, but there are some key things to remember to make sure you get the most out of your supplement. Today we highlight four key mistakes not to make when taking zinc to ensure that you get the most absorption from your supplement.
#1 Do Not Take Zinc with These Foods
The bioavailability of zinc refers to how much of the zinc your body can absorb. Just because you consume 10mg of zinc in a capsule, for example, does not mean you absorb all ten grams. Therefore, one of the key factors in increasing its bioavailability is understanding which foods act as zinc inhibitors.
One of the greatest compounds that inhibit zinc absorption is phytic acid, also known as phytates 1. Phytates are a natural component of plants and are often called ‘anti-nutrients’ since they prevent iron, zinc, and calcium absorption and may promote mineral deficiencies 2.
The two types of phytates that are especially harmful for zinc absorption are inositol hexaphosphates and pentaphosphates, found in most seeds, legumes, nuts, and whole grains like wheat 1, 3.
Preparing these foods properly helps reduce the levels of phytates, which includes ancestral preparations like soaking, sprouting, fermentation, and cooking them properly 1.
Cadmium also inhibits zinc absorption, which is important because the levels of cadmium are ever increasing in our environment 1. Foods higher in cadmium include cereals and cereal products, vegetables, nuts and pulses, starchy roots or potatoes, and grain-fed meat and meat products 4.
On the other hand, protein has a positive effect on the absorption of zinc 1. Since vegetarian and especially vegan diets tend to be higher in plant matter and lower in protein, zinc deficiency is more likely in those who don’t consume any meat 5.
#2 Do Not Take Zinc with These Supplements
Certain supplements inhibit the absorption of zinc, so it is important not to take supplements that compete with zinc for absorption at the same time. For example, copper (Cu) and Iron (Fe) are antagonistic supplements to zinc and should not be taken together.
Supplementing zinc simultaneously with copper will inhibit the absorption of copper 6. Although this is not an issue in zinc bioavailability, it is a waste of copper supplementation at best and, at worst, can cause a copper deficiency– so stick to taking the two at separate times.
Zinc and iron compete during intestinal absorption and can induce a cellular iron deficiency 7. Therefore it is better to take zinc and iron supplements separately and consume iron-rich foods separately from your zinc supplement.
#3 Do Not Dose Improperly
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in various systems in the body, including immune, endocrine, skeletal, and muscular systems. It is involved in over 100 chemical reactions in your body 8-9. A zinc deficiency is associated with a wide range of dysregulations and symptoms in the body that include wounds that won’t heal, a lack of alertness, decreased sense of smell and taste, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and open sores on the skin 8.
Many people take multi-vitamins or low-dose zinc supplements that do not meet zinc requirements. This is on top of combining the supplement with foods that inhibit absorption or opting for low-bioavailable forms of zinc. Some people, like vegans and alcoholics, are more prone to zinc deficiency and should be even more mindful of proper supplementation.
Like most things, the opposite is just as problematic, and it is possible to overdose on zinc. Zinc toxicity is usually marked by vomiting and nausea, and can occur in dosages upwards of 150 mg 10. Other side effects of overdosing on zinc include diarrhea and stomach pain, flu-like symptoms, and copper deficiency 6, 11-12.
Dosing zinc properly also requires understanding the possible interactions that it can have with medications. Typically, the medications inhibit zinc absorption, so it is best to take them at least four hours apart. This includes thiazide diuretics like chlorthalidone or hydrochlorothiazide, antibiotics like quinolone or tetracycline, and penicillamine 13.
#4 Do Not Take Just One Form of Zinc
Different forms of zinc serve different purposes in the body, so taking a zinc supplement that comes with just one or two forms won’t do. Ideally, you want a powerful supplement with seven forms of bioavailable zinc.
- Zinc Citrate is used in toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent dental plaque formation and gingivitis. Zinc is in chewing gum, candies, and mouth rinses to treat bad breath 14.
- Zinc Glycinate is a form of Zinc that supports immune function. It also helps vision – high concentrations of zinc are found in the eyes. It promotes skin health, hair health, and even wound healing. Important for men’s health – helping with sex drive and testosterone production 15.Zinc Picolinate acts as an antioxidant, prevents oxidative damage, and protects cells against DNA damage. Zinc is required for the enzyme activities necessary for supporting liver health, detoxification, and has overall anti-aging benefits 16.
- Zinc Ascorbate may enhance immune function, stabilize blood sugar levels, and help keep your skin, eyes, and heart-healthy— and, it has natural antimicrobial activity, which can help with infections 17.
- Zinc Methionate supports skin health and wound-healing; it is essential for carbohydrate metabolism; it’s necessary for over 100 different enzyme systems for proper vision, growth, skeletal integrity, tissue repair, and sexual health 18.
- Zinc Orotate has a small size that enables it to pass through cell membranes easily. This means it’s more highly bioavailable. With zinc orotate, you get all the benefits of zinc more quickly and at lower servings: support for your immune system, heart, liver, bones, and joints, plus a normal response to inflammation 19.
- Zinc Acetate is often added to cold lozenges to reduce symptoms and speed up the rate of recovery. In addition, it is often used to help with liver health and liver cell regeneration, especially after extreme periods of toxicity or chronic issues 20.
As you can see, different forms of zinc serve different aspects of your health. Therefore, finding a supplement that incorporates a wide range of zinc may be more productive than taking a more narrow zinc supplement.
When it comes to choosing a form of zinc to supplement, something else to be mindful of is that your body does not naturally digest zinc easily. To make it more bioavailable, zinc can be chelated, which means it is bonded to another compound to make it absorbable. Forms of chelated zinc include: 6
- Zinc gluconate
- Zinc citrate
- Zinc picolinate
- Zinc orotate
- Zinc acetate
Zinc supplementation can be very beneficial to health since it plays such a vital role in various bodily systems. Since many people are deficient, taking zinc as a supplement can help but only if you absorb it. To improve zinc’s bioavailability, avoid taking it with phytates or cadmium-rich foods like most seeds, legumes, nuts, and whole grains like wheat. Since zinc competes with copper and iron, it is best to avoid taking it simultaneously as those two supplements. Underdosing or overdosing on zinc is to be avoided and taken at the same time as certain medications. Finally, opt for a more complete zinc supplement containing seven forms of chelated zincs.
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