What is Zinc for?
Zinc is a metal. It is called an “essential trace element” because very small amounts of zinc are necessary for human health.
Zinc is used for treatment and prevention of zinc deficiency and its consequences, including stunted growth and acute diarrhea in children, and slow wound healing.
It is also used for boosting the immune system, treating the common cold and recurrent ear infections, and preventing lower respiratory infections. It is also used for malaria and other diseases caused by parasites.
Some people use zinc for an eye disease called macular degeneration, for night blindness, and for cataracts. It is also used for asthma; diabetes; high blood pressure; acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS); and skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
Other uses include treating attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), blunted sense of taste (hypogeusia), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), severe head injuries, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, Hansen’s disease, ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcers and promoting weight gain in people with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa.
Some people use zinc for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), male infertility, erectile dysfunction (ED), weak bones (osteoporosis), rheumatoid arthritis, and muscle cramps associated with liver disease. It is also used for sickle cell disease and inherited disorders such as acrodermatitis enteropathica, thalassemia, and Wilson’s disease.
Some athletes use zinc for improving athletic performance and strength.
Zinc is also applied to the skin for treating acne, aging skin, herpes simplex infections, and to speed wound healing.
There is a zinc preparation that can be sprayed in the nostrils for treating the common cold.
Zinc citrate is used in toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent dental plaque formation and gingivitis.
Note that many zinc products also contain another metal called cadmium. This is because zinc and cadmium are chemically similar and often occur together in nature. Exposure to high levels of cadmium over a long time can lead to kidney failure. The concentration of cadmium in zinc-containing supplements can vary as much as 37-fold. Look for zinc-gluconate products. Zinc gluconate consistently contains the lowest cadmium levels.
What is Zinc Possibly Effective for?
Preventing and treating blood levels of zinc that are too low (zinc deficiency). Zinc deficiency may occur in severe diarrhea, conditions that make it hard for the bowel to absorb food, liver cirrhosis and alcoholism, after major surgery, and during long-term use of tube feeding in the hospital. Taking zinc by mouth or intravenously (by IV) helps to restore zinc levels to the right level. But as a rule, routine use of zinc supplements is not recommended.
• Alzheimer’s disease. Some limited research has shown zinc supplements may slightly slow the worsening of symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
• Wrinkled skin. A skin cream containing 10% vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid and acetyl tyrosine, zinc sulfate, sodium hyaluronate, and bioflavonoids (Cellex-C High Potency Serum) applied for 3 months to facial skin aged by sun exposure seems to improve fine and coarse wrinkling, yellowing, roughness, and skin tone.
• Infections related to AIDS. There is some limited evidence that taking zinc supplements by mouth in combination with zidovudine (AZT, Retrovir, a component of Combivir) might prevent certain bacterial and yeast infections that can occur in people with AIDS because their immune system is less active than it should be. However, taking zinc supplements might lower the overall survival of people with AIDS.
• Male sexual problems. Taking zinc orally to treat male sexual problems caused by disease or medical treatment has produced varying results.
• Crohn’s disease.
• Ulcerative colitis.
• Treating the common cold when used as a nose spray.
• Down syndrome.
• Recurrent ear infections.
• Preventing cancer.
• Head injury.
• Helping babies that are too small when born.