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Chelated Zinc: Your Essential Guide to This Essential Mineral

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In the world of essential minerals and vitamins, zinc might not get as much hype as iron or vitamin C or D, but you definitely don’t want to skimp on this important mineral. Zinc plays a vital role in strengthening your immunity, healing wounds, protein synthesis (aka, creating protein), as well as supporting a healthy pregnancy.

While zinc deficiencies are rare, having certain health conditions, such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and chronic liver disease, can make it difficult for your body to fully absorb the zinc in food, per the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Moreover, vegetarians and vegans may have a harder time getting adequate amounts of zinc because they don’t eat animal products, which have the most bioavailable zinc. This, our friends, is where chelated zinc comes in.

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What Is Chelated Zinc?

Chelated zinc is a supplemental form of zinc that makes it easier for your body to absorb the mineral. It has a chelating agent that binds to elemental zinc to make it more easily absorbed by your body. Chelated zinc is usually made of organic compounds (acetic, citric, gluconic, orotic, and picolinic acid) or amino acids (aspartic acid, methionine, and monomethionine), but it’s also available with inorganic compounds.

According to Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, the most easily absorbable forms of zinc are zinc picolinate, zinc acetate, zinc glycinate, and zinc monomethionine. You can get chelated zinc in capsules, tablets, lozenges, or as a liquid.

But before you introduce a chelated zinc supplement into your routine, it’s important to first consult your doctor, who can confirm a zinc deficiency and recommend a proper dosage. If you consume too much zinc, it can lead to toxicity. Some signs of toxicity include nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, poor appetite, headache, and diarrhea.

You also want to make sure that taking chelated zinc won’t contraindicate any medications you’re taking. For example, certain blood pressure medications, antibiotics, and even iron or calcium supplements can interact with zinc, according to Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine.

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How Much Zinc You Need

The NIH recommends that men get at least 11 milligrams of zinc daily and women 8 milligrams daily. Those who are pregnant need 11 milligrams and women who are breastfeeding need 12 milligrams daily.

You can get the bulk of your zinc needs from eating a variety of healthy foods. The following foods contain ample amounts of zinc:

  • oysters
  • canned beans
  • fortified cereals
  • yogurt
  • chickpeas
  • beef
  • chicken
  • pork

If you’re deficient, consider speaking to a nutrition coach who can recommend ways to easily increase your daily zinc intake and come up with a well-balanced meal plan designed for your specific nutrition needs.

Benefits of Zinc Supplementation

It can help support your immunity.

Some research shows that zinc can help support your immune system, particularly if you’re immunocompromised. According to a 2019 review in Advances in Nutrition, zinc supplementation can help improve antiviral response against diseases, like the common cold, in people with a deficiency.

Zinc supplementation may also help the common cold in deficient adults, but more research is needed to confirm the immunity benefits of zinc in healthy adults with adequate zinc levels, according to a 2020 review in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. However, a 2021 meta-analysis in BMJ Open suggests that zinc supplementation may help shorten the duration of cold symptoms in adults without a zinc deficiency.

It can help prevent age-related macular degeneration.

Zinc supplementation has been shown to help delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration, an eye disorder which causes blurred or reduced central vision, in deficient older adults, according to a 2020 review in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

(Image: Shutterstock)

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