Zinc, why do we need it and how do we get it?

Zinc, why do we need it and how do we get it?

Why do we need this Zinc in our diet?

Zinc is one of the most vital micronutrient elements needed in our body for a numerous amount of functions, as a co-factor for enzyme actions and for its ever-prevalent role in supporting Immune function just to name a few of its responsibilities. This mineral is also responsible for growth factor signaling from conception onwards, it helps to suppress inflammation and is an assisting element needed for the anti-oxidant response system of the body to help scavenge and kill off Reactive Oxygen Species (oxidative stress).

Insulin assistance and sensitivity control:

Zinc plays a crucial role in glucose and lipid metabolism in the body. There is a growing link now that there is a connection between its deficiency and the development of metabolic disease and disorder; studies are now showing that the supplementation of the mineral may help to fight against the development of metabolic diseases and disorders related to high amounts of LDL cholesterol, blood pressure irregularities and glucose metabolism dysfunction. This may be because it is so heavily tied in with the synthesis, storage, and secretion of insulin.

How does it assist with inflammation?

This role also factors in the relationship with Zinc's ability to regulate inflammation and inflammatory Cytokine expression in the body. This is particularly noteworthy in instances such as cytokine expression found in the adipose tissue of obese patients and those with diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The patients with a deficiency showed an upregulated expression of interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 as well as the pro-inflammatory pathway NF-kB linked with the very transcription of our DNA! Causing a long term of exposure to inflammatory signaling and a heightened immune response which showed to actively destroy the Beta Cells if the pancreas; leading to insulin resistance and much higher blood serum levels of glucose. Zinc is shown to regulate these inflammatory signaling pathways and actually inhibit NF-kB function.

Your gut bugs can affect how you absorb Zinc… and if you do at all!

Recent studies are now finding that the Gut Microbiota dictate just what minerals get absorbed by the body and this accounts for minerals Zinc, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Selenium, calcium, and Silver! We have always said that maybe we are just vectors of transport for the billions of bugs living inside of our intestines alone!

The Microbiota as such consists of the commensal microbes that inhabit us, the host, from as early on as fetal development and because of its ever-growing presence in the discovery of disease and treatment as well as critical functioning importance it is now being labeled as another human organ, unofficially. Link this in with the constant communication between the gut and the brain and it's quickly becoming a question of which one do we really take guidance from in our body movements, desires, cravings, and behaviors…?

Which Gut Bugs?

So, which gut bugs control how much Zinc we absorb from foods and supplementation? Interestingly they have found that an overpopulation of Proteobacteria and the divisional bacteria of this group that includes the strains of E.Coli, Salmonella, Vibrio and Helicobacter that we are aware of for pathogenic bacteria forms can offset the ratio of healthy firmicutes and Bacteroidetes balance needed for optimal gut flora function and disrupt the metabolism of Zinc. (9)


Phytates can inhibit Zinc Absorption

There is an ever-growing cultural development that the western and developed world with a plethora of food and nutrition available; are deficient in this mineral. Its now coming to light that Phytates found in grains, cereals, rice, and corn have a very negative impact on the body’s ability to absorb and utilize zinc from dietary intake.

Inositol hexaphosphates and pentaphosphates are the two forms of Phytates in particular, responsible for exerting the negative impact on the absorption of this micronutrient. Other forms of lower occurring Phosphates have nearly no impact on the absorption of Zinc whatsoever. The reduction of Phytates in these foods or avoiding these forms of phytates in the diet may drastically improve the serum levels in the body.

Other Absorption Inhibitors:

  • Casein
  • Iron if supplemented together (interestedly not when appearing in the same food source though)
  • Cadmium

    Enhancers of Zinc absorption:
    • Most protein sources
    • Aminos such as histidine and methionine
    • Organic acids such as Citrate

    Most importantly is the fact that not all Zinc acts the same in the body!

    Zinc Picolinate – This is one of the more superior forms available in a supplemental form and this is due to its very diverse bioavailability in the body. Picolinic acid is a product of Tryptophan metabolism and an essential component in the process in allowing absorption of zinc. Patients with a rare genetic defect in the ability to regulate Tryptophan Metabolism in the case of 'Acrodermatitis Enteropathica' benefit greatly from this form of Zinc to bypass this defect and allow the absorption of the micronutrient mineral. This is a great form and is very bioavailable to the body.

    Zinc Gluconate – This is a form that is bound with fermented glucose and is readily absorbed into the bloodstream, however the amount of zinc that is put into this form of zinc supplement yields very high for the amount that is absorbable. There are roughly 7 milligrams of Zinc Gluconate needed to yield just 1milligram of elemental zinc. Zinc gluconates rapid absorption benefits areas of the throat and nasal passages but not so much systemically. This form works best as a lozenge to help prevent the infection in the nasal and throat passages.

    Zinc Carnosine -  Chelated with Carnosine originally discovered in Japan, this form is highly reputable for its ability to work not just as a method of zinc supplementation but also provide the normal carnosine affects found in muscle cells and nerves, glucose metabolism, antioxidant regulation, intracellular tight junctions, and cell mediation activity. It is also shown to improve the Mucosal activity and integrity within the gut and support intestinal permeability. Zinc-carnosine has been shown to provide an anti-ulcerative effect to those suffering from stomach ulcers.

    Zinc Citrate – Bound with citric acid to improve the absorption of zinc within the body and is found to be used predominantly due to its natural occurrence in human breast milk. It is shown to be one of the less effective forms when it comes to absorption within the body. Citrate and Gluconate saturate the tissues and serum levels but these markers have now been shown to be irrelevant. This is when measuring the actual bioefficacy of zinc in the body.


    Many factors like we see in all health variations when it comes to the diet, can play either positive or negative effect on how this mineral is absorbed. Being aware of natural inhibitors in diet, gut flora and supplemental forms can attribute to the status of being sufficient or deficient.


    1 - Synthesis and crystal structure of a zinc citrate complex  Yuan-Fu Deng  &Zhao-Hui Zhou 

    2. Dietary factors influencing zinc absorption.Lönnerdal B1.

    3. Enzymology of Bacterial Lysine Biosynthesis, Con Dogovski1* et al. 1Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

    4. Zinc Competition among the Intestinal Microbiota Lindsay M. Gieldaa*Victor J. DiRitaa,b

    5. Beta-Cell Function and Failure in Type 2 Diabetes, Simona Popa and Maria Mota

    6. Zinc Picolinate: Absorption, Timothy C. Birdsall, ND

    7. Zinc Carnosine Benefits and Nutrient Interactions, Jessica Pizano, MS, CNS 

    8. association between gut microbiota and mineral metabolism, Dept. human nutrition and hygiene. Katarzyna Skrypnik and Joanna Suliburska

    9. Human nutrition, the gut microbiome, and immune system: envisioning the future Andrew L. Kau,* Philip P. Ahern,* Nicholas W. GriffinAndrew L. Goodman,1 and Jeffrey I. Gordon