Zinc Supplements: What You Need to Know (2024)

People only need a small amount of zinc, but it plays an important role in the body. Zinc is integral in DNA creation, immune support, cell growth, tissue healing, protein building, and the senses. It is necessary for healthy growth during childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy.

A zinc deficiency can cause problems with wound healing, slow growth, loss of taste and smell, and cognitive problems. If severe, it can even cause death. In most industrialized countries, zinc deficiencies are fairly rare, although they can occur in certain populations.

Read on to find out more information about why someone might need zinc supplementation, foods to eat to get enough zinc, and how to safely supplement with it.

Zinc Supplements: What You Need to Know (1)

Dietary supplements are not regulated the way drugs are in the United States, which means the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve them for safety and effectiveness before the products are marketed. When possible, choose a supplement tested by a trusted third party, like USP, ConsumerLabs, or NSF.

Remember that third-party testing does not guarantee safety or effectiveness. It’s important, then, to talk with your healthcare provider about any supplements you plan to take, and ask about any potential interactions with other supplements or medications.

Supplement Facts

  • Active ingredient: Zinc
  • Alternate names: Zinc sulfate, zinc picolinate, zinc glycerate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, zinc monomethionine
  • Legal status: Over the counter
  • Suggested dose: Supplements are generally 30 to 50 milligrams (mg) each. Follow instructions on the label or per your healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Safety considerations: Before taking supplements, check with your healthcare provider to see if there are potential interactions with any other supplements or medications you are taking and if it is safe and appropriate for you to take zinc.

Benefits of Zinc

Supplement use is unique to each person and should be vetted by a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian, pharmacist, or healthcare provider. No supplement is intended to treat, cure, or prevent disease. Ask your healthcare provider before starting to use any supplement whether it is safe and appropriate for you.

Most people get enough zinc by eating a healthy and varied diet and by taking a multivitamin. The recommended daily allowance for adults is between 8 mg and 11 mg, and it can vary if you are pregnant or lactating.

For people in industrialized countries, the likelihood of being significantly deficient in zinc is rare. People who may have lowered zinc levels include older people and those with alcohol use disorder, anorexia, or who are on severely restricted diets.

Those with conditions with malabsorption problems, like Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, as well as those who’ve had bariatric (weight-loss) surgery, may also have zinc deficiencies.

Zinc supplementation may be suggested to help with:

  • Acne: People with acne often have lowered serum zinc levels, and both oral and topical zinc have been found to reduce the prevalence of inflammatory papules, both when used as monotherapy and as a supplemental therapy.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): AMD is an eye condition affecting a part of the light-sensitive retina. Zinc is included in the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS and AREDS2) formulas that contain other vitamins and minerals. These supplements have been found beneficial for people with intermediate or late AMD in clinical trials, but they don't prevent AMD or help in early AMD.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Studies of zinc levels in people with ADHD have been inconsistent. A meta-analysis found that those living with ADHD might be more likely to have lower zinc levels, and therefore screening for zinc deficiency—and then supplementing—might be useful.
  • Bone health: Zinc plays a key role in bone development and bone repair. Researchers suspect zinc may also work to prevent osteoporosis. However, the optimal dose is unclear, and more studies are needed.
  • Colds (as lozenges): Zinc lozenges may help prevent cold symptoms or shorten the length of a cold, but the studies have had a high risk of bias (being sponsored by drug companies), had small numbers of participants, or used different methods and are hard to compare.
  • Preventing chronic conditions: Zinc is an antioxidant that helps combat oxidative stress. Studies show zinc lowers markers of systemic inflammation. Inflammation and oxidative stress are associated with several chronic conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, and neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.Scientists suspect zinc supplements may help to prevent chronic diseases, though more research is needed.
  • Sickle cell disease: Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition affecting the red blood cells. Many people with sickle cell disease are deficient in zinc, which can cause lowered immunity and increased risk of infection. Supplementing with zinc can lower both disease-associated morbidity as well as infections.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Zinc may help lower blood sugar and cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Research ties zinc supplements to reduced levels of fasting glucose, post-meal blood sugar, triglyceride, total cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol. Zinc deficiency may also play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

If you have any of these conditions, talk with your healthcare provider. You may have to take high doses of the supplement for a small period of time, under the supervision of a professional. Many studies of zinc treatments for different conditions have proven not to be clinically significant, or the dosage of zinc would be so high that it’s dangerous.

What Are the Side Effects of Zinc?

Zinc supplements can cause various side effects. They may be common or severe, depending on how much zinc you take and other factors.

Common Side Effects

Most people taking zinc supplements have little to no side effects, although like any vitamin/mineral supplement, zinc can cause slight upset stomach if taken without food. Take zinc with water or juice, and not at the same time as any iron or calcium supplements.

A good time to take the supplement is right after breakfast, depending on when you take other supplements.

Severe Side Effects

Severe side effects can happen if you take too much zinc, and can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Headaches

Zinc nasal sprays or nasal gels have been associated with a loss of sense of smell for some people.

Precautions

You don’t need a lot of zinc to be healthy. Zinc is what is known as a trace mineral. Most people get what they need from dietary sources. Because of the potential for significant adverse effects and interactions with medications or other supplements, it should be used under the supervision of your healthcare provider.

Dosage: How Much Zinc Should I Take?

People of different ages need different amounts of zinc, and most people get enough from their diet and multivitamins. People who are pregnant and/or breastfeeding need more zinc because of their bodily demands and needs.

For children ages birth to 13, recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) range from 2 mg to 8 mg, depending on age. Teenagers age 14 to 18 need 11 mg for males, 9 mg for females, 12 mg if pregnant, and 13 mg if breastfeeding.

Adult males 19 and older should get 11 mg daily; adult females 19 and older, 8 mg;people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, 11 mg and 12 mg, respectively.

(Note that Verywell Health prefers to use inclusive terminology. But when citing health authorities or research, the terms for sex or gender from those sources are used.)

A regular multivitamin is generally enough for most adults, but children, pregnant and nursing people, and older adults should see a healthcare provider to assess what kind of supplementation they need.

Eating a healthy and varied diet and taking a daily multivitamin usually provides all the zinc you need, without extra zinc supplementation. If supplementation is needed, it is typically done over limited periods of time, taking plenty of breaks. Your healthcare provider can talk with you more about whether extra zinc supplementation is necessary and the length of time you should be on it.

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, talk with your healthcare provider about your diet to see whether you are getting all the nutrients you need, including zinc. A prenatal vitamin may be enough for pregnant and nursing people.

But if a child or older adult is deficient, they may need specific doses of zinc supplementation under the supervision of a healthcare provider. Do not give zinc supplements to a child without the instructions of a healthcare provider.

What Happens if I Take Too Much Zinc?

There have been no reports of getting too much zinc through diet, but there is a danger of zinc toxicity from supplements. To avoid toxicity, be aware of the proper dosage, and be mindful of the suggested upper limit of the supplement.

For adults, the upper tolerable limit of daily intake of zinc, which includes from both food and supplements, is 40 mg. Too much zinc can cause side effects such as:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite

It’s not good to take zinc supplements for long periods of time, especially every day. If you take too much zinc for prolonged periods of time, you can lower your own natural immunity, impair your body’s ability to absorb magnesium, and lower your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, considered the “good” cholesterol.

Chronic and excessive zinc supplementation can cause copper deficiency and neurological problems as well.

An ongoing prospective cohort study (one that follows participants over many years) of U.S. males found those who took high levels of supplemental zinc (more than 75 milligrams per day) were at higher risk for prostate cancer, and those who took supplemental zinc for more than 15 years were also at higher risk for lethal and more aggressive prostate cancer.

If you think you’ve taken too much zinc, contact the poison control hotline or go to the emergency room.

Interactions

Even though they're not prescriptions, supplements can interact with food, medications, or other supplements. Sometimes this can be dangerous and cause serious adverse effects. With zinc, interactions can include:

  • Various antibiotics can lower zinc levels and interfere with your body’s absorption of zinc; take the antibiotic two hours before the supplement, or four to six hours after the supplement.
  • The drug Cuprimine (penicillamine) for rheumatoid arthritis and Wilson's disease ( a condition in which there are high amounts of copper in the body) can be modified by zinc supplements, so take the zinc and the medication at least one hour apart.
  • Certain diuretics (water pills) increase the volume of zinc lost in the urine, lowering zinc levels in the body.

This is not a complete list of interactions; before taking zinc supplements, ask a healthcare provider if it is safe for you to take them.

It’s very important to read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement so you know what is in it. Please review this information with a healthcare provider to discuss any possible interactions with foods or any other medications or supplements that you take.

How to Store Zinc

As with many vitamin and mineral supplements, light, heat, and humidity can all impact the quality and integrity of zinc supplements. Store your supplements in a cool, dark, and dry place. Do not store in the refrigerator or leave it in the bathroom, where there is too much moisture.

Keep zinc supplements away from direct sunlight. Discard the supplements as indicated on the packaging.

Similar Supplements

Zinc is often used to supplement or boost the immune system or improve skin conditions, but other supplements do that, as well. Similar supplements can include, but are not limited to:

  • Vitamin A (retinol)
  • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
  • Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin)

If you are taking more than one supplement, ask your healthcare provider if they should be taken alongside each other.

Sources of Zinc and What to Look For

The best way to get enough zinc is through your diet. If this isn’t possible, fortified foods and supplements can be added. For vegetarians and vegans, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) and whole grains can inhibit the absorption of zinc, so supplementation might be necessary.

Food Sources of Zinc

Foods that contain zinc include:

  • Oysters
  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Some seafood, like crab and lobster
  • Fortified cereals

Foods that have some zinc, but not as much, include beans, nuts, whole grains, eggs, and dairy products.

Zinc Supplements

Nearly all of the general multivitamin and mineral dietary supplements have zinc in them. You can also get an isolated zinc supplement or a supplement in which zinc is combined with something like calcium.

There are different forms of zinc in supplements, but one has not been shown to be better than the others. Sometimes zinc is also in denture adhesives or homeopathic remedies.

Summary

Zinc is an important mineral for good health, growth, immune support, and overall functioning. While most people get all the zinc they need from a healthy and varied diet and a multivitamin, some people may need to supplement a bit more.

Because the body only needs a small amount of zinc, it can be easy to take too much and experience negative side effects. Talk with a healthcare provider about whether supplementation is necessary, and the possibility of any adverse interactions with your existing medication and supplement consumption.

Zinc Supplements: What You Need to Know (2024)

FAQs

Zinc Supplements: What You Need to Know? ›

You should not take high doses of zinc for more than a few days unless your doctor tells you to. Talk to your doctor before taking more than 40 mg of zinc per day and take breaks from zinc supplementation. During those breaks, get zinc from a well-balanced diet.

What do I need to know before taking zinc? ›

Zinc supplements are most effective if they are taken at least 1 hour before or 2 hours after meals. However, if zinc supplements cause stomach upset, they may be taken with a meal. You should tell your health care professional if you are taking your zinc supplement with meals.

What happens if I take zinc every day? ›

When taken by mouth: Zinc is likely safe when used in amounts no greater than 40 mg daily. It is possibly safe when taken in larger doses, especially when used only for a short period of time. But taking doses higher than 40 mg daily might decrease how much copper the body absorbs.

What are the side effects of taking zinc? ›

Adverse effects of high zinc intake include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches. Intakes of 150–450 mg of zinc per day have been associated with such chronic effects as low copper status, altered iron function and reduced immune function.

What are the symptoms of too much zinc in your body? ›

Signs of too much zinc include nausea, dizziness, headaches, upset stomach, vomiting, and loss of appetite. If you take too much zinc for a long time, you could have problems such as lower immunity, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (good) cholesterol, and low copper levels.

What should you avoid when taking zinc? ›

Do not take zinc supplements and copper, iron, or phosphorus supplements at the same time. It is best to space doses of these products 2 hours apart, to get the full benefit from each dietary supplement.

Why do I not feel good after taking zinc? ›

Ultimately, zinc can and does cause nausea if you eat too much of it or if you consume zinc from the wrong sources. However, you shouldn't stop taking a zinc supplement or eating foods with zinc in them altogether; the key idea is to simply absorb the right amount of zinc.

Should I take zinc in the morning or at night? ›

While there is no specific time of day you should take a zinc supplement, zinc does interact with some medications, warns Prest. “Do not take zinc supplements within a couple of hours of antibiotics and penicillamine.” As with most supplements, the best time to take zinc is when you will remember to, says Gans.

Can I take zinc and vitamin D together? ›

Interactions between your drugs

No interactions were found between Vitamin D3 and Zinc.

Is 50 mg of zinc too much? ›

Health Risks from Excessive Zinc

If used for weeks, doses of 50 mg zinc or more—typically from supplements or excessive use of denture adhesive creams that contain zinc—can interfere with copper absorption (which can cause low copper status), reduce immune function, and lower HDL cholesterol levels [1-3,97].

Can zinc cause weight gain? ›

Our data suggest that zinc supplementation increases body weight in patients undergoing HD and decreases body weight in individuals who are overweight/obese but otherwise healthy, although after normalization for study duration, the association observed in subjects who are overweight/obese disappeared.

What are the pros and cons of zinc? ›

Generally safe. Oral zinc supplements might benefit people with low levels of zinc. Taken soon after cold symptoms appear, zinc might also shorten the length of a cold. However, don't use intranasal zinc, which has been linked with the loss of the sense of smell.

Does zinc affect your heart? ›

Experimental studies have shown that zinc administration during reperfusion improves myocardial recovery to almost 100%, protects against cardiac mechanical and/or electrical dysfunction, decreases the incidence of arrhythmias and improves post-ischemic myocardial recovery [8].

Is it safe to take zinc daily? ›

You should not take high doses of zinc for more than a few days unless your doctor tells you to. Talk to your doctor before taking more than 40 mg of zinc per day and take breaks from zinc supplementation. During those breaks, get zinc from a well-balanced diet.

What food is full of zinc? ›

What are the best sources of zinc? The best source of zinc is oysters, but it's also plentiful in red meat and poultry. Other good sources of zinc include other kinds of seafood, nuts whole grains, breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

Can I take 50 mg of zinc once a week? ›

Even though zinc is vital to your health, there can be too much of a good thing. It's possible to take too much zinc. In general, adults shouldn't take more than 40 mg of zinc each day, though the amount your body actually needs each day is much lower.

When should I take zinc, morning or night? ›

While there is no specific time of day you should take a zinc supplement, zinc does interact with some medications, warns Prest. “Do not take zinc supplements within a couple of hours of antibiotics and penicillamine.” As with most supplements, the best time to take zinc is when you will remember to, says Gans.

Why shouldn't you take zinc on an empty stomach? ›

Like many other medications, vitamins, and mineral supplements, zinc is usually better taken with food. Taking it on an empty stomach can trigger nausea. Unless specifically instructed to take a supplement on an empty stomach, try taking it following a decent-sized meal, like after breakfast or dinner.

How soon will I feel better after taking zinc? ›

There is no guarantee that zinc will help you feel better faster. In some studies, zinc did nothing to shorten how long people with colds felt bad. In other studies, zinc may have shortened symptoms by a few days.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Manual Maggio

Last Updated:

Views: 5483

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (49 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Manual Maggio

Birthday: 1998-01-20

Address: 359 Kelvin Stream, Lake Eldonview, MT 33517-1242

Phone: +577037762465

Job: Product Hospitality Supervisor

Hobby: Gardening, Web surfing, Video gaming, Amateur radio, Flag Football, Reading, Table tennis

Introduction: My name is Manual Maggio, I am a thankful, tender, adventurous, delightful, fantastic, proud, graceful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.