Using Diet Zinc for Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that plays many critical roles in the body. This article provides an overview of zinc, including its benefits, recommended dosages, food sources, and the use of zinc ionophores to enhance its antiviral effects.

What is Zinc and Why is it Essential?

Zinc is a micronutrient that is needed in small amounts on a daily basis. The body does not store zinc well, so regular intake is required.

Zinc binds to around 2800 human proteins and is involved in:

  • Breaking down and building proteins (catabolic and structural functions)
  • Signaling between cells
  • Supporting enzymatic reactions

It acts as a signaling molecule and structurally is part of 10% of all mammalian proteins.

Key Benefits of Zinc

Zinc provides wide-ranging benefits:

Antioxidant Effects

Zinc acts as an antioxidant, helping to reduce oxidative stress from mental, physical, chemical, and hormonal sources.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Zinc helps lower inflammatory levels in the body. Chronic inflammation is linked to many diseases.

Immune Support

Zinc plays an important role in modulating and supporting immune system function. It can help fight viral infections and shorten their duration.

Growth and Repair

Zinc is critical for childhood growth and development. It also helps maintain and repair connective tissues, hair, nails, skin, and more.

Zinc supports optimal brain function. Deficiencies have been linked to problems with learning, memory, and behavior.

Recommended Intake

The recommended daily intake of zinc depends on age:

  • Infants: 2-5 mg
  • Children: 3-8 mg
  • Adults: 8-11 mg
  • Pregnancy: 11-12 mg

However, these recommended intakes may be inadequate for some. Those with autoimmune conditions, high stress, vegetarian diets, or on certain medications may need more zinc.

Food Sources of Zinc

The top food sources of zinc include:

  • Oysters and shellfish
  • Meat (beef, lamb, pork)
  • Poultry
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes and whole grains
  • Dairy products

Many cereals and some milks are also fortified with zinc.

Signs and Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

Mild zinc deficiency is common, especially in those with health conditions or on restrictive diets. Symptoms can include:

  • Poor immune function and frequent infections
  • Loss of appetite or sense of taste
  • Hair loss and skin issues
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Reproductive problems

Chronically low zinc levels can contribute to the development of age-related chronic diseases.

Supplemental Forms of Zinc

There are several forms of supplemental zinc:

  • Zinc bisglycinate – highly bioavailable
  • Zinc acetate – also highly bioavailable
  • Zinc citrate – moderate bioavailability
  • Zinc gluconate – common but less ideal absorption
  • Zinc picolinate – may not significantly increase zinc levels

Zinc carnosine is also used specifically to improve stomach and digestive health.

Safety and Side Effects of Zinc Supplementation

Too much supplemental zinc can cause:

  • Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite
  • Metallic taste
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea

High doses above 50 mg per day should be avoided unless supervised by a doctor. Excessive zinc can also deplete copper levels. Balance is key.

Optimal Zinc Supplementation Strategy

To optimize zinc levels through supplementation:

  • Take smaller doses of 15-30 mg per day
  • Split the dose – take half in the morning, half in evening
  • Take zinc on an empty stomach for better absorption
  • Consider combining with copper at 15:1 zinc to copper ratio

The Antiviral Effects of Zinc

One of the key benefits of zinc is its ability to fight viral infections. Let’s take a closer look at how it works and how to optimize its antiviral effects.

How Zinc Fights Viruses

Zinc helps block viruses from replicating inside host cells. It also helps strengthen and modulate the immune response to viruses.

Supplementing zinc at the first signs of a viral infection like a cold can help stop it in its tracks or significantly reduce symptoms and shorten the duration.

The Problem of Low Cellular Zinc

While zinc levels may appear normal or adequate in the blood, cellular zinc levels can still remain deficient. Zinc has trouble passing through cell membranes.

This means our cells and tissues can be deprived of zinc even when supplementing, reducing its effectiveness.

Zinc Ionophores – The Solution

This is where substances called “zinc ionophores” come into play. Zinc ionophores are compounds that improve the transport of zinc across cell membranes, raising cellular zinc levels.

There are several natural zinc ionophores available as supplements:

Zinc Ionophore Supplements


Quercetin is a flavonoid antioxidant found in fruits, vegetables, tea, and wine. As a supplement, typical dosages are 500-1000 mg per day.

Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG)

EGCG is a compound found in green tea. Supplements are available containing purified EGCG. 100-200 mg daily is a typical dosage.


Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric. It has anti-inflammatory effects and also acts as a zinc ionophore. 500 mg daily is an effective dose.

Combining Zinc and Ionophores for Antiviral Support

By combining zinc supplementation with zinc ionophores, cellular zinc levels can be better optimized for countering viral infections.

Here are evidence-based combination therapies:

Preventative Dosing

  • Zinc: 15-30 mg, twice daily
  • Quercetin: 500 mg, twice daily
  • EGCG: 100-200 mg per day
  • Curcumin: 500 mg per day

At First Sign of Illness

Double the above preventative doses at the first sign of viral infection like cold or flu. Continue for at least several days.

Zinc lozenges can also provide symptom relief and speed recovery from upper respiratory infections.

Additional Supportive Supplements

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Elderberry
  • Echinacea
  • Garlic
  • Omega-3 fish oils

Adequate zinc intake can profoundly support immune function and antiviral defenses. By using zinc ionophores, absorption and cell delivery is enhanced. Through smart supplementation, zinc becomes a powerful tool for improving wellness.

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