When it comes to supporting immune function, most individuals turn to the big players – vitamin C, vitamin D, and certain plant extracts, such as echinacea, mushrooms, and olive leaf.*

But what about minerals? Although several do offer immune support, one stands head and shoulders above the rest for its numerous immune-supportive benefits.

Zinc Essentials

Zinc is an essential mineral, meaning we need it, but, since our bodies can’t make it, it must be acquired in the diet or from supplementation. Zinc is the second-most abundant trace mineral found in the body, second only to iron. It is present in almost every living cell, it’s responsible for at least 100 enzymatic reactions, and it plays a key role in genetic expression, cell division, and growth.*

Although our bodies typically contain 2-3 grams of zinc at any one time – mostly in bones and muscles – a regular supply is necessary to keep the body (and those 100+ enzymatic reactions) running smoothly. The best way to do that is through a healthy diet and zinc supplementation. The best sources of zinc through diet include:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Oysters
  • Beans and nuts, albeit in lesser amounts than meat, poultry, and oysters

Oysters are by far the highest food source of zinc – 74 mg per 3-ounce serving, which is 493 percent of zinc’s Recommended Daily Value.

How zinc supports immune function*

There is a reason to reach for a zinc lozenge when you have a sore throat. Zinc has several essential roles in the body, including immune support.* Maintaining a proper level of zinc is necessary to assure the immune system is functioning optimally; several studies indicate that zinc plays a central role in immune function.*

Zinc is necessary for the development and function of cells related to our immune response.Zinc is essential for activation of a certain group of white blood cells – called T-lymphocytes (T-cells) – that control the body’s inflammatory response during times of immune stress.*

In addition, studies have found that the antioxidant properties of zinc help mitigate oxidative stress – a process that damages cells and tissues and can lead to several chronic health conditions.*2

Another study that focused on immune function and the elderly found that even a marginal zinc deficiency in this population impacts immune function.* The study noted that zinc supplementation promoted a healthy immune response.*3

Because zinc also promotes the structural health of the skin through collagen synthesis, coupled with its benefits for immune function, zinc should be among one of the first supplements to reach for to help with wound healing.*4

And that’s just for immune function! Clinical studies indicate that zinc supplementation can increase general wellness, as well as having a beneficial impact on connective tissue, and reproductive, prostate, and eye health.*

Getting your daily amount of zinc

Although zinc deficiency is uncommon in the United States, it does occur and is commonly the result of inadequate zinc intake, poor zinc absorption, or excessive loss of zinc from the body. Those most commonly at risk include the elderly, individuals with GI conditions (like Crohn’s disease), vegans, and athletes who sweat profusely.

If you aren’t getting a steady amount of zinc in your diet, then zinc supplementation can help. However, because zinc’s absorption varies depending on the form it is delivered in, not all zinc supplements are absorbed efficiently by the body. That is why Thorne’s Zinc Picolinate combines zinc and picolinic acid. Picolinic acid is a natural mineral chelator, thus facilitating zinc’s absorption. And because the need for zinc varies, Thorne offers two versions of Zinc Picolinate – 15 mg and 30 mg – to support zinc supplementation. The 30-mg amount is NSF Certified for Sport®.


References

  1. Prasad A. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med 2008;14(5-6):353-357.
  2. Marreiro D, Cruz K, Morais J, et al. Zinc and oxidative stress: current mechanisms. Antioxidants (Basel) 2017;6(2):24.
  3. Haase H, Rink L. The immune system and the impact of zinc during aging. Immun Ageing 2009;6:9.
  4. Lin P, Sermersheim M, Li H, et al. Zinc in wound healing modulation. Nutrients 2017;10(1):16. doi:10.3390/nu10010016