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Quick Consult on Acute/Chronic Zinc Supplementation in Adults
Quick VIDEO and Text Guide to Zinc Supplementation in Adults
Quick summary: Zinc deficiency is common worldwide and results in impaired barriers, immune defects, increased risk/severity of viral and bacterial infections, and increased systemic inflammation and also mental depression.
You’re quite likely not getting enough zinc
Zinc deficiency is common worldwide from lack of access (eg, poverty, starvation), lack of proper food selection (eg, healthy choices available but ignored), or blocked absorption from “healthy” foods (eg, grains have zinc, but they also have phytic acid which blocks zinc absorption); other causes of zinc deficiency such as poor digestion (especially insufficient stomach acid) and increased loss (especially from some diuretic drugs) are also commonly encountered in clinical practice. Less commonly appreciated are the genetic disorders that lead to zinc deficiency due to impaired absorption; genetic insufficiency of picolinic acid is probably underappreciated in its milder forms while the more severe and obvious form of picolinate deficiency (acrodermatitis enteropathica) would be appreciated in infancy by a good/rare clinician.
Several of the best food sources of zinc1 are foods that are uncommonly eaten by most people, such as oysters, crab, lobster and perhaps baked beans:
Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces (zinc 74 mg per serving)
Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces (zinc 6.5 mg per serving)
Lobster, cooked, 3 ounces (zinc 3.4 mg per serving)
Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, ½ cup (zinc 2.9 mg per serving) with reduced efficiency of absorption due to the fibers
Beef and pork are commonly consumed potent sources of zinc:
Beef chuck roast, braised, 3 ounces (zinc 7 mg per serving)
Beef patty, broiled, 3 ounces (zinc 5.3 mg per serving)
Pork chop, loin, cooked, 3 ounces (zinc 2.9 mg per serving)
Again, plant-based sources of zinc including so-called “fortified” cereals/breads may contain X quantity of zinc, but absorption will certainly be less than X because of zinc-binding absorption-blocking agents within the plant fiber and phytochemicals such as phytates. Dairy products (milk, cheese, and their derivatives) reduce zinc absorption. Coffee has zinc-binding peptides; coffee components bind to zinc and reduce absorption of zinc.
Manifestations of zinc deficiency
Zinc deficiency becomes apparent in defects of biochemistry (such as fatty acid metabolism and antioxidant defense) and physiology (especially immune defense, also the healing of injuries). Knowing those basic roles of zinc, you might be able to see that zinc deficiency can present clinically as depression, mood disorders, increased frequency/severity of many different infections by viruses/bacteria/fungi, slow-to-heal wounds and a wide range of skin disorders. Zinc protects against oxidative damage and also modulates inflammatory responses, leading to reductions in systemic inflammation. Zinc may also improve glucose metabolism and thereby have a role in the treatment of diabetes.
Zinc supplementation for adults
10-25 milligrams of supplemental zinc is reasonable for most adults and can be obtained in a good multivitamin-multimineral supplement, which virtually everyone should consume, and which generally requires 4-6 capsules/tablets per day, taken with food to enhance absorption and reduce nausea. For acute needs for most adults, for example if faced with an acute infection, 50 mg is reasonable, and 100 mg is probably the limit of reasonableness; such acute treatment is by definition limited to a few days such as the duration of the infection or let’s say 10-14 days. Because higher doses of zinc supplementation (eg >25mg) can lead to reductions in copper absorption, we typically add copper if supplementing zinc for more than a few weeks; copper 2 mg is reasonable with a limit of copper 4 mg if higher doses (eg, zinc 100 mg) are being used. You can see the video below for more discussion; remember to see the entire Antiviral Nutrition Protocol for context and more details:
Dr Alex Kennerly Vasquez (introduction; brief Bio-CV) writes and teaches for an international audience on various topics ranging from leadership to nutrition to functional inflammology. Major books include Inflammation Mastery, 4th Edition (full-color printing, 1182 pages, equivalent to 25 typical books [averaging 60,000 words each]), which was also published in two separate volumes as Textbook of Clinical Nutrition and Functional Medicine (Volume 1: Chapters 1-4; Volume 2: Chapter 5—Clinical Protocols for Diabetes, Hypertension, Migraine, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, Vasculitis, Dermatomyositis and most other major inflammatory/autoimmune disorders); several sections have been excerpted including Antiviral Strategies and Immune Nutrition (ISBN 1502894890) (aka, Antiviral Nutrition [available as PDF download] and Brain Inflammation in Chronic Pain, Migraine, and Fibromyalgia. Dr Vasquez’s books are available internationally via bookstores such as BookDepository, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, ThriftBooks, AbeBooks, BetterWorldBooks, WaterStonesBooks and his new Telegram channel is https://t.me/DrAlexVasquez.
This super-cool information is not personalized medical advice.