vitamins deficiency symptoms

Effects of zinc on health

Scientists are studying zinc to learn about its effect on the immune system and several health problems.

Immune system and wound healing

Zinc supplements might help some people with sores and skin ulcers, but only if these people have low levels of zinc.


Children who live in developing countries often die from diarrhea. Zinc supplements might help these children get better more quickly. It is not clear if zinc supplements help children with diarrhea that gets enough zinc, such as most children in the United States.

The common cold

Some scientists have tried to find out whether zinc lozenges help people with a cold feel better and recover more quickly. But these studies have had different results. At this time, it is not clear whether zinc lozenges can help treat the common cold.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

People with AMD lose their vision over time. Zinc might help keep AMD in its early stages from getting worse. In one study, scientists gave older people with AMD a daily supplement with 80 mg zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and copper for about 6 years. The people who took these supplements had a lower chance of getting advanced AMD and lost less of their vision.

The same study showed that taking supplements containing only zinc also lowered the chance of getting advanced AMD in people with a high risk of this disease. People who have or are starting to get AMD might want to talk with their doctor about taking dietary supplements.

Sources of Zinc

A wide variety of foods contain zinc. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain types of seafood (such as crab and lobster), whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

Phytates—which are present in whole-grain breads, cereals, legumes, and other foods—bind zinc and inhibit its absorption. Thus, the bioavailability of zinc from grains and plant foods is lower than that from animal foods, although many grain- and plant-based foods are still good sources of zinc.

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