According to biochemists who are experts on zinc, supplementing with this mineral may be one of the most important things you can do for overall wellness. Getting adequate zinc can help cure a number of the most severe health problems due to how it affects immune function (1, 2).
Zinc improves immune cell activity and scavenges free radicals as an antioxidant, helping to eradicate inflammation. It also reduces viral replication and supports physical barriers that protect the body from pathogens.
While achieving baseline zinc levels is necessary for health, high dose supplementation is most effective if are already sick. A meta-analysis found that high-dose zinc lozenges that supplied more than 75 mg of zinc a day led to a 20 percent reduction in cold duration, whereas lower doses of less than 75 mg a day had no effect (3).
A second analysis showed that zinc lozenges in doses of 80 to 92 mg a day reduced the duration of upper respiratory illness, decreasing nasal congestion by 37 percent, scratchy throat by 33 percent, hoarseness by 43 percent, and cough by 46 percent. The duration of muscle aches decreased by 54 percent (4).
Zinc deficiency profoundly affects the immune system because low zinc produces a direct and rapid decline in immune cell function. T cells elevate the body’s immune system when viruses, bacteria, or challenges to health arise.
Am I At Risk of A Deficiency?
Low zinc is common in people with poor health, and those with gastrointestinal problems, including IBS and celiac disease. Additionally, vegetarians and people who don’t eat plenty of zinc-containing foods are prone to zinc deficiency.
Older people are at greater risk of zinc deficiency, which is not solely due to poor dietary intake. There’s evidence that a need for more zinc may increase with age to counter inflammation, support the immune system, and ensure healthy cell function.
The best sources of zinc are meat, shellfish, and dairy. Seeds, nuts, and vegetables do contain zinc but they also contain phytates that result in poor absorption.
How To Take: When you have an upper respiratory illness, it is fine to use higher dose zinc lozenges that supply between 75 and 90 mg a day, but it is not recommended that you go over 100 mg.
When trying to raise levels from a deficiency, supplementing zinc with 25 to 45 mg a day should be sufficient. As a daily preventative, a lower dose of 5 to 10 mg is considered safe. Zinc is not stored in the body, so you need to get it from your diet or supplement on a regular basis.
1. Prasad, A. Zinc Deficiency. British Medical Journal. 2003. 326, 409-410.
2. Wessels, I., et al. Zinc as a Gatekeeper for Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017. 9(12), 1286.
3. Hemila, H. Zinc lozenges may shorten the duration of colds: a systematic review. Open Respiratory Medi- cine Journal. 2011. 5, 51-58.
4. Hemila, H., Chalker, E. The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis. BMC Family Practice. 2015.16(24).