What is Zinc?
Zinc is a vital trace element that is essential to the human body. It is responsible for over 300 enzymatic processes. Because it has so many different functions it is considered one of the most important elements to the normal functioning of the human body.
Processes in which Zinc is essential: (Reference)
- Gene expression
- Enzymatic reactions
- Immune function
- Protein synthesis
- DNA synthesis
- Wound healing
The body cannot produce Zinc on its own and can only store Zinc for a short time and in very small amounts (2 mg). (Reference) Therefore, regular intake of Zinc from diet or other sources is critical.
Symptoms from lack of Zinc
Zinc deficiency can result in symptoms like dermatitis, alopecia (hair loss), lack of alertness and reduced sense of smell, diarrhea, increase in infections, immune dysfunction and hypogonadism which is low production of testosterone in men and a variety of problems listed below. (Reference, Reference)
- Frequent symptoms of the common cold
- Delayed wound healing
- A weak immune system
- More likely to get infections
- A skin rash, especially around the mouth
- Skin ulcers
- Vision problems due to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Abnormal taste and/or smell sensation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sexual dysfunction
- Worsening asthma symptoms
Diagnosing people at risk
Zinc deficiency is hard to diagnose because initial symptoms can be mild and confused with other illnesses but also because most zinc in your body is stored in hair, nails and bones and difficult to measure in blood tests. (Reference)
Here is a list of people who are particularly subject to zinc deficiency. (Reference)
- People with gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s disease
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women
- Older infants who are exclusively breastfed
- People with sickle cell anemia
- People who are malnourished, including those with anorexia or bulimia
- People with chronic kidney disease
- Those who abuse alcohol
Because of the low risk of taking Zinc and the high risk of deficiency it can make sense to supplement Zinc.
Types of Zinc Supplement?
As with any other vitamin and trace mineral there are different types of Zinc. The most common type of Zinc which you will find in your local drugstore is Zinc Oxide or Zinc Citrate.
Zinc Oxide is an example of a typical inorganic compound consisting of a Zinc molecule bound to Oxygen. (Reference)
Characteristics for this type of Zinc is that it is high in elemental Zinc, very cheap to produce but also come with drawbacks such as low absorption, stomach discomfort and other negative characteristics inherent to single-source and in-organic zinc products.
Zinc Chelates for Higher Absorption
Zinc is not easily absorbed on its own. Chelated Zinc is Zinc that is bound to a chelating agent to create more absorbable end products with unique characteristics. (Reference)
Some of these compounds that Zinc can bind to increase absorption are Organic acids. This allows Zinc to travel through the gastric intentional track without interacting and disintegrating before reaching its destination and generally increasing absorption 11% compared to other types of Zinc. (Reference)
Some Organic Acids that can be used to form chelated Zinc: (Reference)
- acetic acid: used to make zinc acetate
- citric acid: used to make zinc citrate
- gluconic acid: used to make zinc gluconate
- orotic acid: used to make zinc orotate
- picolinic acid: used to make zinc picolinate
The most interesting types of Zinc are Zinc Picolinate and Zinc Bisglycinate because of their unique absorption and ability to raise serum levels. With better absorption and higher serum levels there is better efficacy of the product and subsequent benefit. I’ll go over some of this below.
Zinc picolinate is a rather new type of zinc that has gained a lot of attention in academia due to its unique characteristics and benefits in a range of human disease such as for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or certain taste disorders (Reference, Reference)
Zinc Picolinate has been shown to uniquely raise serum levels compared to any other type of Zinc (Reference) and has been called “(…) the Best of All Zinc Supplements” due to its ability to pass through intestinal membranes and into individual cells. It may also help treat prostate enlargement, liver disease and cirrhosis and age-related macular degeneration. (Reference)
Zinc Bisglycinate (type of Gluconate) is another interesting type of Zinc that is well studied for its effects. A study by Peggy et. Al. showed that Zinc Bisglycinate was able to raise blood serum levels significantly better and sustain these levels for longer compared to Gluconate. (Reference)
In general, all Chelated Zinc types are a good choice as their absorption is better overall. However, while scientific evidence points towards Zinc Bisglycinate and Zinc Picolinate being superior in raising serum levels in humans scientific consensus about which type is better is not completely clear.
We saw a clear gap in the market for a Zinc product that combines the best types of chelated zinc into a superior Zinc supplement. Check it out below.
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