Zinc is an essential mineral contributing to our total physical and mental well-being. It is a key player in the optimal functioning of the reproductive organs, and an important element involved in basic cellular function. Zinc also aids to strengthen the human immune system and deter common skin conditions. It acts as a cofactor with more than 300 different enzymes, boosting the functioning of many of the body’s most basic chemical processes.
Types of Zinc
Zinc is not easily absorbed in the body unless first attached to another substance. For this reason, many zinc manufacturers have “chelated” zinc to organic and amino acids. Supplemental zinc is also available in inorganic form, and non-chelated, usually called zinc sulfate or zinc oxide. Research studies on these forms of zinc show mixed results as whether they are beneficial to the human body.
1. Chelated Zinc
This form of zinc has undergone a process called chelation, whereby the organic molecules have been given an electrical charge that allows them to positively attract the charged mineral (in this case zinc). This creates a temporary increase in the complexity and concentration of the mineral within the molecule.
In other words, each molecule packs more concentrations of zinc via a process of attaching the mineral to something else, such as an amino acid. The belief is that this helps the body better absorb the mineral. There is much debate as to whether the process actually increases absorption. Dr. Gabe Mirkin from the Baylor University School of Medicine feels that chelating minerals has an insignificant effect on absorption when compared to the general conditions in the digestive system.
2. Zinc Orotate (best)
Zinc that has been chelated to orotic acid. The human body’s cellular membranes most readily absorb this type of zinc. Research from Dr. Hans Nieper has found that orotate forms of zinc were more neutrally charged, as compared to other types of zinc. This allowed them to pass through the membranes of cells easily, and thus offered the highest amounts of accompanying mineral atoms into the cells, leading to higher tissue concentrations of zinc. Zinc orotates contain many antioxidant properties that can help protect your health, while offering your cells the most readily-absorbable form of zinc on the market today.
3. Zinc Picolinate
A form of zinc that has been chelated to picolinic amino acids.
4. Zinc Gluconate
One of the most popular forms of dietary zinc, zinc gluconates are created by a process of industrial manufacturing. This process essentially ferments glucose, offering a supplemental product with an extremely long shelf-life. Unfortunately, gluconate supplements are just a chemical substitute for actual zinc.
Sadly, the body absorbs very little of this processed form, as the bio-availability of these chemicals is virtually none.
5. Zinc Acetate
Another chemically-altered form of zinc, acetates are considered to be more absorbable than glutconates. This form of zinc, also known as zinc salt dihydrate and zinc diacetate, is created by adding acetic acid to zinc carbonate or zinc metal. I would not recommend this form of zinc although scientific studies do show that this form can aid in reducing the duration of the common cold, as well as offer relief for Wilson’s disease, a genetic disorder whereby the body stores toxic levels of copper.
6. Zinc Oxide
This inorganic compound of zinc is most commonly used in topical ointments for addressing minor skin conditions such as burns and irritation. It is also a common ingredient in sunscreens. This type is a non-chelated, inorganic form of zinc. Studies show mixed results on the body’s ability to absorb and metabolize this form of inorganic zinc.
7. Zinc Sulfate
Water-soluble and non-chelated, this is an inorganic form of zinc. Studies show mixed results on the body’s ability to absorb and metabolize this form of zinc.
Taking a Zinc Supplement
Although there are many types of zinc, for supplementation, I only recommend zinc orotate. Its main benefit over other forms of zinc is that it is neutrally charged, and is able to pass through the membranes of cells easily. I personally use this zinc supplement and have recommended it for years with great results.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DABFM