December 12th, 2022


Zinc is the second most abundant mineral on earth after Iron and is critical for many biological processes. Zinc exists in a 2+ state and is not sensitive to redox reactions making it an ideal cofactor for enzymatic activity of cells that turn over rapidly like skin, gut and immune cells. For this reason it is used often in the cell and needs to be provided in adequate volume for normal function.

Zinc must be actively transported into the cell for action to occur leaving humans needing zinc transporters for optimal function.

Defects in these transporters can lead to serious disease issues like acrodermatitis enterpathica.  Zinc also acts as a cell signaling molecule in insulin actions and glucose homeostasis as well as neurotransmission.

Deficiency of zinc leads to the following symptoms: diarrhea, hair loss, hepatic inlfammation, immune dysregulation, delayed wound healing, neuropsychological changes such as mood and energy changes. Loss of normal taste can also occur. Insufficiency states are associated with similar but less dramatic issues.

We find that kids who are sick "all the time" or have chronic diaper rashes often have insufficient volumes of red blood cell zinc as tested.

Single nucleotide polymorphisms in zinc transporters are associated with low zinc levels and with diabetes, mood disorders, cardiovascular issues and more. (Kambe et. al. 2015)

Zinc sources are: animal meats, eggs, and seafood, especially shrimp and other crustaceans. Zinc as with most minerals are less bioavailable from whole grains and legumes due to their high content of fiber and phytate that inhibits zinc absorption in the gut.

When we test in office, we test a serum zinc rbc which is a longer time based marker of zinc volume in the bloodstream. We aim for a minimum of 1200 micrograms/deciliter.

Supplementing with zinc picolinate is our current therapeutic choice as well as increasing zinc containing whole foods.

The take home point: all minerals are important to function at optimal levels. Maintain adequate whole food mineral intake as laid out in these articles. If insufficiency states as discussed show up, test levels and treat accordingly.

Dr. M


Kambe Physiological Reviews
Lescinsky Nature Medicine
Zinc Oregon State Website