Zinc, an essential nutrient that your body can’t make by itself, is involved with many different functions of the cells in your body. It’s important for your skin, your vision, your immune system, your cognition, and much more.
One of the most common uses of zinc is to shorten the duration of the common cold. In clinical trials, high doses of zinc (about 70 to 80 milligrams [mg]) are proven to shorten colds by about 30 percent.
Zinc is important for the functioning of your cells, which includes the ability to generate and grow blood vessels and nerves. That makes it a key component of wound healing.
Some of the most impressive clinical studies about zinc have been done in people with diabetes who have non-healing wounds in their legs and feet. Zinc can speed up healing and lead to a better quality of the healed wound.
Studies suggest that zinc may be beneficial for memory, too. Think about aging and the decline in cognition as a slow-motion injury to the brain. The aging brain is not repairing itself as quickly as it normally would, but zinc can improve that healing. There’s still research to be done, but preliminary findings are promising.
The skin normally stores zinc, which helps skin cells function in an optimal way and lowers inflammation. As a result, supplemental zinc may ease inflammatory conditions like acne, psoriasis, and hidradenitis suppurativa.
The most common cause of vision loss in people over 65 is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common condition associated with aging where you start to lose central vision due to damage in the back of the eye. In AMD, the blood vessels that keep the retina healthy grow abnormally and start leaking. Studies done by the National Eye Institute show that a dietary supplement that contains zinc, called AREDS, can help slow down the development of AMD.
Getting more zinc
The first place to look for zinc is in your diet. You can get trace amounts from fish, shellfish, meat, legumes, lentils, chickpeas, seeds, and nuts. You can then top off your zinc stores with a supplement.
There are different formulations of zinc, such as zinc acetate and zinc glycinate, but all of the research that’s been done in human clinical trials shows that the different types work equally well. However, many formulations you get at the drug store, such as products like Cold-eeze, might contain much more than zinc, such as herbs or homeopathic remedies. Always read the ingredients before buying a supplement, to see what’s included.
While there are no known interactions between zinc and other drugs, always talk to your physician before taking a new supplement. If zinc supplements upset your stomach, try taking them with food.