Know your Ingredients: What is the Ideal Zinc Supplement?

Zinc is a Necessary Nutrient

I had a hard time deciding what to write about last. The first 4 supplements that I keep an eye out for were easy: Folate, Magnesium, Vitamin B-12, and Omega 3’s. I decided to write about zinc because it is the hardest working mineral in your body. Zinc is often deficient. Lastly, zinc is personally involved in over 1,000 different biochemical reactions in the body. Tests are not great and anything from hair loss to nausea can be related to zinc deficiency. In naturopathic medical school, I was taught to use zinc picolinate. Usually, the studies consist of taking various forms of zinc, then having the participants collect their urine. The urine levels with the highest amount of zinc indicate the best gastrointestinal absorption. This makes sense because the focus is often on getting the zinc in a supplement from outside of the body into the bloodstream. The amount of zinc in your urine is thus connected to how much is in your blood.

No More Zinc Picolinate

Zinc Picolinate is probably the most recommended form of zinc healthcare professionals. Whenever patients come in and they have seen other naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, or functional medicine doctors they usually recommend this form. I am guilty too, over the course of my career I have recommended this form hundreds of times. I stopped recommending it because of one study. In this study instead of giving various forms of zinc like zinc orotate, zinc picolinate, zinc oxide, or zinc acetate. They simply gave what the zinc was attached to picolinic acid (zinc picolinate), acetic acid (zinc acetate), and etc. This study found that people taking just picolinic acid alone had the highest amount of zinc in their urine. That means the picolinic acid was helping them remove zinc from their body. So yes it has great absorption but that doesn’t matter if the zinc is quickly eliminated. Ideally there would be a zinc that is well absorbed and then passes into the cell and only once the cells are saturated then excess would be eliminated via urine. So honestly the jury is still out but I usually recommend zinc gluconate or zinc monomethionine now a days.

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