• By Bill Sardi [with additions by Martie Whittekin, CCN]

Something has happened in America.  In retrospect, it appears zinc in the American diet has vanished or is not getting absorbed.  Either way, too many Americans exhibit overt symptoms of zinc deficiency.  A blood test is notoriously inaccurate as zinc may be locked up with a binding protein and be biologically unavailable. [In the face of a pandemic, it is very good to know that zinc can increase thymus produced immune cells. STUDY] Here are some signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency that may help you determine if you are zinc deficient [you don’t have all or even many of these]:   

[New study about zinc for diabetes prevention and management]

[New review of studies, “Zinc for the prevention or treatment of acute viral respiratory tract infections in adults.”]

on zinc for

  • Are you losing your sense of smell?
  • Are you losing your sense of taste?
  • Do you crave salt and habitually to add salt to your foods?
  • Do you have adult-onset acne?
  • Is your hair prematurely turning grey?
  • Does your nail bed show white flecks?
  • Do you heal slowly from cuts?
  • Do you have a low sperm count?
  • Do you frequently experience cold sores on your lips?
  • Do you have upset stomach, air and gas, after meals?
  • Do you have skin problems like fungal infections (Athlete’s foot), yellow toenails?
  • Do you have chronic diarrhea?
  • Do you have thin or sparse hair, vanishing eyebrows?
  • Do you have moles on your skin?
  • Do you experience eczema (atopic dermatitis; red, itchy skin)?
  • Are you lethargic or irritable for no apparent reason?
  • Is your testosterone level low?
  • [Are you having some of the many symptoms of low vitamin B1?]
  • Do you experience a rash around your genitalia or mouth?
  • Do you regularly consume alcohol?
  • Do you take am ACE inhibitor blood pressure pill (lisinopril)?
  • Do you have stomach ulcers?
  • Do you or your children have difficulty reading due to dyslexia (letters are backwards)?

I’ve searched high and low for a reason why so many people in a well-fed American population, both young and old, now exhibit signs of zinc deficiency?  The first culprit that comes to mind is arsenic as blood concentrations of zinc and selenium, two essential trace minerals, drastically decline with exposure to arsenic.  The widespread use of glyphosate weed killers [e.g. Roundup] in crops may be the hidden source of arsenic [or for some other reason glyphosate lowers zinc].

How to correct a shortage of zinc

Aside from oysters, there is no single food that provides enough zinc to correct a deficiency.  Typical zinc intake levels are 10 milligrams/day but maybe only 1-2 milligrams are actually absorbed.  Older adults with low stomach acid levels typically have difficulty absorbing zinc.  And wouldn’t you know, zinc is an important co-factor in the internal synthesis of hydrochloric acid in the gastric tract. [Mr. Sardi later said the adult dose for zinc is 30 mg. a day but that at 45 mg you may have to balance with copper.) 

Very high concentrations of zinc are found in the liver, muscle, brain and testes.  So, it is no wonder that zinc sufficiency has something to do with brain function, testosterone synthesis and liver health.

There is ~2000 milligrams of zinc stored in body tissues.  But even with sufficient intake and absorption, zinc may be bound up by a mineral chelating molecule called metallothionein.   The trace mineral selenium helps to release zinc so it is biologically available.

Only recently have investigators associated zinc shortages with loss of senses – smell and taste.  And loss of those senses is associated with mental decline with advancing age. 

Of interest, a lack of zinc impairs the sense of taste which causes many people to pour more salt on their foods to enhance taste.  Salt craving is a sign of zinc deficiency.  It may be better to instruct people who use too much salt on their foods to supplement with zinc rather than cut back on sodium.

There is another important role for zinc in the human body.  Zinc controls a primary immune switch.  Zinc is required to activate T-cells, those memory white blood cells that confer life-long immunity via memory T-cells that produces antibodies against various pathogenic germs.

A special form of zinc

Fortunately there is a form of zinc that protects the nervous system, promotes the health of the digestive tract, aids in wound healing, normalizes gut bacteria, promotes liver health and helps restore the sense of smell and taste to individuals with these symptoms.  It is called zinc carnosine.

And no one would have guessed that supplemental zinc would help restore healthy heart pumping after a heart attack.  The amount of blood pumped (ejection fraction) after a heart attack improves with the provision of zinc carnosine.

Zinc is known to promote wound healing.  And the preferred form of zinc to heal up gastric ulcers is zinc carnosine.   Zinc carnosine is the form of zinc commonly used to protect and heal tissues following cancer radiation treatment or to aid antibiotics in the kill off of H. pylori, the bacterium that causes gastric ulcers.  Zinc carnosine is the trace mineral of choice for nutritional support of hepatitis (liver inflammation). 

Zinc carnosine has also been demonstrated to stabilize genes that become fragile with advancing age. 

A typical two-week course of zinc carnosine, taken as directed on the label, may help you become zinc sufficient. 

For fighting a cold or other virus, use a zinc lozenge with ionophore’s that help zinc get into the cell where it can stop viral replication.