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What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Zinc Usage

Written by FoundHealth.


Effect of Zinc on Acne

Zinc is an important element that is found in every cell in the body. More than 300 enzymes in the body need zinc in order to function properly. The effect of zinc on acne is not clear, though studies...

Read more about Acne and Zinc.

Effect of Zinc on Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza)

When you take zinc as a lozenge or nasal gel or spray, you are not using it as a nutrient. Instead, certain forms of zinc release ions that are thought to directly inhibit viruses in the nose and...

Read more about Viral Upper Respiratory Infections (Colds and Influenza) and Zinc Lozenges and Nasal Sprays and Gels.

Therapeutic Uses

Use of zinc nasal spray or zinc lozenges at the beginning of a cold may reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, but study results are somewhat inconsistent. 1 These treatments are thought to work by directly interfering with viruses in the nose and throat, and involve relatively high doses of zinc used for a short time.

Zinc can also be taken long-term at nutritional doses orally to improve overall immunity and reduce risk of infection; 2 however, this approach probably only works if you are deficient in zinc to begin with.

A significant body of evidence suggests that oral zinc can reduce symptoms of acne . 3 But, in most studies, potentially toxic doses were used, and in any case, the benefits appear to be rather slight.

Growing evidence suggests that oral zinc, especially in combination with antioxidants, can help slow the progression of macular degeneration . 4 Oral zinc has also shown promise for sickle cell anemia , 5 ADHD , 6 and stomach ulcers . 7 Zinc has also been shown to be beneficial for acute diarrhea in children, the most convincing evidence coming from studies done in developing countries. 8 This suggests that zinc is most useful for this condition in the presence of a nutritional deficiency.

Topical zinc may be helpful for cold sores . 9 Zinc has shown some promise for treating dysgeusia (impaired taste sensation). In a study of 50 people with idiopathic dysgeusia (impaired taste sensation of no known cause), use of zinc at a rather high dose of 140 mg daily improved taste ability. 10 Another study enrolled seniors with dysgeusia and gave them either placebo or 30 mg of zinc daily; the results were equivocal. 11 Dysgeusia can also be caused by radiation therapy in the vicinity of the mouth, but the overall evidence regarding the use of zinc for this purpose is more negative than positive. 12 Kidney dialysis also impairs taste sensation, but once more zinc supplements failed to prove effective. 13 ( Note: Use of any mineral supplement by people undergoing kidney dialysis is potentially dangerous.)

In one study, use of zinc appeared to modestly decrease inflammation of the mucous membranes and skin caused by radiation therapy. 14 Weak and/or contradictory results have been seen in studies of zinc for anorexia nervosa , 15 depression , 16 rheumatoid arthritis , 17 enhancing sexual function in men on kidney dialysis, 18 tinnitus , 19 and warts . 20 Some, but not all, studies have found that HIV-positive people tend to be deficient in zinc, with levels dropping lower in more severe disease. 21 22 23 24 25 Higher zinc levels have been linked to better immune function and higher CD4+ cell counts, whereas zinc deficiency has been linked to increased risk of dying from HIV. 26 27 One preliminary study among people taking AZT found that 30 days of zinc supplementation led to decreased rates of opportunistic infection over the following 2 years. 28 However, other research has linked higher zinc intake to more rapid development of AIDS. 29 Another failed to find that zinc supplementation reduces diarrhea associated with HIV. 30 The bottom line: If you have HIV, consult your physician before supplementing with zinc.

Although the evidence that zinc works is not yet meaningful, the supplement is sometimes recommended for the following conditions as well: Alzheimer's disease , 31 32 33 and minor memory loss in seniors, 34 benign prostatic hyperplasia , 35 36 37 38 39 40 bladder infection , cataracts , diabetes , 41 42 Down's syndrome, 43 44 infertility in men , 45 inflammatory bowel disease ( ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease ), 46 47 48 osteoporosis , 49 periodontal disease , prostatitis , 50 psoriasis , and wound and burn healing. 51 52 An 8-week, double-blind trial of zinc at 67 mg daily failed to find any benefit for eczema symptoms. 53


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  3. Dreno B, Amblard P, Agache P, Sirot S, Litoux P. Low doses of zinc gluconate for inflammatory acne. Acta Derm Venereol. 69(6):541-3.
  4. Stur M, Tittl M, Reitner A, Meisinger V. Oral zinc and the second eye in age-related macular degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 37(7):1225-35.
  5. Gupta VL, Chaubey BS. Efficacy of zinc therapy in prevention of crisis in sickle cell anemia: a double blind, randomized controlled clinical trial. J Assoc Physicians India. 43(7):467-9.
  6. Akhondzadeh S, Mohammadi MR, Khademi M. Zinc sulfate as an adjunct to methylphenidate for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children: A double blind and randomized trial [ISRCTN64132371]. BMC Psychiatry. 2004 Apr 8. [Epub ahead of print]
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  9. Godfrey HR, Godfrey NJ, Godfrey JC, Riley D. A randomized clinical trial on the treatment of oral herpes with topical zinc oxide/glycine. Altern Ther Health Med. 7(3):49-56.
  10. Heckmann SM, Hujoel P, Habiger S, Friess W, Wichmann M, Heckmann JG, Hummel T. Zinc gluconate in the treatment of dysgeusia--a randomized clinical trial. J Dent Res. 84(1):35-8.
  11. Stewart-Knox BJ, Simpson EE, Parr H, Rae G, Polito A, Intorre F, Andriollo Sanchez M, Meunier N, O'Connor JM, Maiani G, Coudray C, Strain JJ. Taste acuity in response to zinc supplementation in older Europeans. Br J Nutr. 99(1):129-36.
  12. Ripamonti C, Zecca E, Brunelli C, Fulfaro F, Villa S, Balzarini A, Bombardieri E, De Conno F. A randomized, controlled clinical trial to evaluate the effects of zinc sulfate on cancer patients with taste alterations caused by head and neck irradiation. Cancer. 82(10):1938-45.
  13. Matson A, Wright M, Oliver A, et al. Zinc supplementation at conventional doses does not improve the disturbance of taste perception in hemodialysis patients. J Ren Nutr. 2003;13:224-228
  14. Lin LC, Que J, Lin LK, Lin FC. Zinc supplementation to improve mucositis and dermatitis in patients after radiotherapy for head-and-neck cancers: a double-blind, randomized study. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 65(3):745-50.
  15. Birmingham CL, Goldner EM, Bakan R. Controlled trial of zinc supplementation in anorexia nervosa. Int J Eat Disord. 15(3):251-5.
  16. Nowak G, Siwek M, Dudek D, Zieba A, Pilc A. Effect of zinc supplementation on antidepressant therapy in unipolar depression: a preliminary placebo-controlled study. Pol J Pharmacol. 55(6):1143-7.
  17. Simkin PA. Treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with oral zinc sulfate. Agents Actions Suppl. 8():587-96.
  18. Rodger RS, Sheldon WL, Watson MJ, et al. Zinc deficiency and hyperprolactinaemia are not reversible causes of sexual dysfunction in uraemia. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 1989;4:888-892.
  19. Paaske PB, Pederson CB, Kjems G, et al. Zinc therapy of tinnitus. A placebo-controlled study [in Danish; English abstract]. Ugeskr Laeger. 1990;152:2473-2475.
  20. Al-Gurairi FT, Al-Waiz M, Sharquie KE. Oral zinc sulphate in the treatment of recalcitrant viral warts: randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Br J Dermatol. 146(3):423-31.
  21. Fabris N, Mocchegiani E, Galli M, et al. AIDS, zinc deficiency, and thymic hormone failure [letter]. JAMA. 1988;259:839-840.
  22. Sappey C, Leclercq P, Coudray C, et al. Vitamin, trace element and peroxide status in HIV seropositive patients: asymptomatic patients present a severe beta-carotene deficiency. Clin Chim Acta. 1994;230:35-42.
  23. Odeh M. The role of zinc in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. JIntern Med. 1992;231:463-469.
  24. Periquet BA, Jammes NM, Lambert WE, Tricoire J, Moussa MM, Garcia J, Ghisolfi J, Thouvenot J. Micronutrient levels in HIV-1-infected children. AIDS. 9(8):887-93.
  25. Tomaka FL, Imoch PJ, Reiter WM, et al. Prevalence of nutritional deficiencies in patients with HIV Infection [abstract]. Int Conf AIDS. 1994;10:221.
  26. Campa A, Lai H, Shor-Posner G, et al. Relationship between zinc deficiency and survival in HIV+ homosexual men [abstract]. FASEB J. 1998;12:A217.
  27. Baum MK, Shor-Posner G, Lu Y, Rosner B, Sauberlich HE, Fletcher MA, Szapocznik J, Eisdorfer C, Buring JE, Hennekens CH. Micronutrients and HIV-1 disease progression. AIDS. 9(9):1051-6.
  28. Mocchegiani E, Rivabene R, Santini MT. Benefit of oral zinc supplementation as an adjunct to zidovudine (AZT) therapy against opportunistic infections in AIDS. Int J Immunopharmacol. 1995;17:719-727.
  29. Tang AM, Graham NHM, Kirby AJ, et al. Dietary micronutrient intake and risk of progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected homosexual men. Am J Epidemiol. 1993;138:937-951.
  30. Cárcamo C, Hooton T, Weiss NS, Gilman R, Wener MH, Chavez V, Meneses R, Echevarria J, Vidal M, Holmes KK. Randomized controlled trial of zinc supplementation for persistent diarrhea in adults with HIV-1 infection. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 43(2):197-201.
  31. Constantinidis J. Alzheimer's disease: the zinc theory [in French; English abstract]. Encephale. 1990;16:231-239.
  32. Constantinidis J. The hypothesis of zinc deficiency in the pathogenesis of neurofibrillary tangles. Med Hypotheses. 35(4):319-23.
  33. Cuajungco MP, Lees GJ. Zinc metabolism in the brain: relevance to human neurodegenerative disorders. Neurobiol Dis. 4(3-4):137-69.
  34. Maylor EA, Simpson EE, Secker DL, Meunier N, Andriollo-Sanchez M, Polito A, Stewart-Knox B, McConville C, O'Connor JM, Coudray C. Effects of zinc supplementation on cognitive function in healthy middle-aged and older adults: the ZENITH study. Br J Nutr. 96(4):752-60.
  35. Bandlish U, Prabhakar BR, Wadehra PL. Plasma zinc level estimation in enlarged prostate. Indian J Pathol Microbiol. 31(3):231-4.
  36. Gonick P, Oberleas D, Knechtges T, Prasad AS. Atomic absorption spectrophotometric determination of zinc in the prostate. Invest Urol. 6(4):345-7.
  38. Györkey F, Min KW, Huff JA, Györkey P. Zinc and magnesium in human prostate gland: normal, hyperplastic, and neoplastic. Cancer Res. 27(8):1348-53.
  39. Györkey F, Sato CS. In vitro 65Zn-binding capacities of normal, hyperplastic, and carcinomatous human prostate gland. Exp Mol Pathol. 8(2):216-24.
  40. Leake A, Chisholm GD, Habib FK. The effect of zinc on the 5 alpha-reduction of testosterone by the hyperplastic human prostate gland. J Steroid Biochem. 20(2):651-5.
  41. Schmidt LE, Arfken CL, Heins JM. Evaluation of nutrient intake in subjects with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. J Am Diet Assoc. 94(7):773-4.
  42. Blostein-Fujii A, DiSilvestro RA, Frid D, Katz C, Malarkey W. Short-term zinc supplementation in women with non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: effects on plasma 5'-nucleotidase activities, insulin-like growth factor I concentrations, and lipoprotein oxidation rates in vitro. Am J Clin Nutr. 66(3):639-42.
  43. Sustrová M, Strbák V. Thyroid function and plasma immunoglobulins in subjects with Down's syndrome (DS) during ontogenesis and zinc therapy. J Endocrinol Invest. 17(6):385-90.
  44. Licastro F, Mocchegiani E, Masi M, Fabris N. Modulation of the neuroendocrine system and immune functions by zinc supplementation in children with Down's syndrome. J Trace Elem Electrolytes Health Dis. 7(4):237-9.
  45. Netter A, Hartoma R, Nahoul K. Effect of zinc administration on plasma testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and sperm count. Arch Androl. 7(1):69-73.
  46. Sjögren A, Florén CH, Nilsson A. Evaluation of zinc status in subjects with Crohn's disease. J Am Coll Nutr. 7(1):57-60.
  47. Van de Wal Y, Van der Sluys Veer A, Verspaget HW, Mulder TP, Griffioen G, Van Tol EA, Peña AS, Lamers CB. Effect of zinc therapy on natural killer cell activity in inflammatory bowel disease. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 7(3):281-6.
  48. Mulder TP, van der Sluys Veer A, Verspaget HW, Griffioen G, Peña AS, Janssens AR, Lamers CB. Effect of oral zinc supplementation on metallothionein and superoxide dismutase concentrations in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 9(5):472-7.
  49. Relea P, Revilla M, Ripoll E, Arribas I, Villa LF, Rico H. Zinc, biochemical markers of nutrition, and type I osteoporosis. Age Ageing. 24(4):303-7.
  50. Neal DE Jr, Kaack MB, Fussell EN, Roberts JA. Changes in seminal fluid zinc during experimental prostatitis. Urol Res. 21(1):71-4.
  51. Han CM. Changes in body zinc and copper levels in severely burned patients and the effects of oral administration of ZnS04 by a double-blind method [in Chinese; English abstract]. Zhonghua Zheng Xing Shao Shang Wai Ke Za Zhi. 1990;6:83-86, 155.
  52. Agren MS, Strömberg HE, Rindby A, Hallmans G. Selenium, zinc, iron and copper levels in serum of patients with arterial and venous leg ulcers. Acta Derm Venereol. 66(3):237-40.
  53. Ewing CI, Gibbs AC, Ashcroft C, David TJ. Failure of oral zinc supplementation in atopic eczema. Eur J Clin Nutr. 45(10):507-10.


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