Is zinc a big deal?

The  W.H.O. (world health organization) estimates that 31% of the world could be deficient in Zinc (link). This number is most likely inflated by developing countries that have problems with malaria and also with access to clean water. With the repercussions from the symptoms of malaria and waterborne diseases resulting in massive zinc deficiencies. Chances are you don’t suffer from either of these problems, but you still probably need a zinc boost!

This 31% is only an estimate and based on recommended daily intake (RDI), which may well be a massive underestimation. Recommended daily intakes are a simplified estimate based on a 2000 calorie a day diet, which does not account for age, sex, medical status, nor differing activity levels. Most moderately active adults both men and woman need more than 2000 calories a day, not to mention the inaccuracy of the caloric equations. (Covered in another blog post here.)  The DV’s which appear on food labels show the percentage of the RDI in certain foods. Note these have not been updated since 1968 !. (Link Here)

RDI values are meaningless…

RDI numbers are not very useful to us, they are out of date and don’t account for individual variables. When possible the RDA (recommended daily allowance) should be used because this takes age and sex into account at least. However even this number is only a “recommendation” to not have to feel any ill effects of deficiency, this number does not aim for maximum benefit, but only enough to not feel terrible. Great huh?

This coupled with our food supply becoming less nutrient dense with our mono-farming practices causing our soil to become more and more depleted as time goes on. How often do you think food manufacturers are re-testing their crops for vitamin and mineral content? I would guess, not often! This is expensive, and as time goes on those numbers are only going to go down, they want to keep that old data for as long a possible.

All of this making the border point that you probably need to be taking supplements in general, but back to Zinc.

The Linus Pauling Institute estimates that up to 2 billion people could be suffering from a “marginal zinc levels”, link here.   

What does Zinc actually do?

Zinc is crucial for.

  • Immune function
  • Sense of smell and therefore taste.
  • Cell division and growth.
  • Wound healing
  • Breakdown of carbohydrates.
  • Healthy testosterone levels.

Zinc is clearly crucial, it is a cofactor in over 300 enzymes in the body, which is why it has wide-ranging effects throughout body and brain functioning.  

It appears many of us are “marginally deficient” as stated above. However, if you eat a lot of oysters, scallops, shrimp, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds, cashews, and spinach you may be doing ok.  

Zinc is also very toxic at high doses and can negatively effective copper and iron absorption. As with any supplementation, it is important to get professional advice and blood tests, to see what your current levels are and if supplementation is necessary.

Some warning signs of zinc toxicity are;  nausea, vomiting, pain and diarrhea.

Zinc and Iron supplements should also not be taken at the same time of day as they have a cross reaction, and negatively affect the absorption of one another.  

What’s the deal with magnesium?

It is estimated that only 20 % of adults are at or over their RDI for magnesium. Another study in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in the US showed that about half of America is deficient. These numbers like most other numbers in nutrition are hard to nail down to an accurate or consistent one. To top the confusion and inaccuracy off,  only about 1% of magnesium is stored in blood, so a standard blood test is not a good measure of this vital mineral.

Magnesium and the body

Magnesium is stored in your bones and organs and is found in over 300 enzymes in your body, just like zinc. Some of the major responsibilities of magnesium are.

  • Serving as a building block for RNA and DNA synthesis
  • Precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin
  • Muscles and nerve activation
  • Creating energy in your body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
  • Digestion.

Just like zinc, levels of magnesium have been depleted from our soils. It has been argued that magnesium levels in soil have dropped even more than zinc. A comprehensive article on the problem with farming and soil here.

Some foods that are high in magnesium or at least used to be high in magnesium are;

Dark leafy greens, squash and pumpkin seeds, mackerel and avocados.

How many people in your family are eating these foods regularly?  It’s easy to see why so many people struggle to keep their magnesium levels up.

Ok, so I’ll just buy some zinc and magnesium supplements….

So you’re probably thinking, “easy I’ll just buy some supplements from amazon”. If only it was that easy.

The question is which type of zinc and magnesium?

There are 7 types of zinc,

  • Zinc Orotate
  • Zinc Picolinate
  • Zinc Glycerate
  • Zinc Acetate
  • Zinc Sulfate
  • Zinc Oxide
  • Zinc Gluconate

And 9 types of magnesium.

  • Magnesium Citrate
  • Magnesium Taurate
  • Magnesium Malate
  • Magnesium glycinate
  • Magnesium Chloride
  • Magnesium carbonate
  • Magnesium Oxide
  • Magnesium Sulfate
  • Magnesium glutamate and aspartate

So all of these have differing levels of effectiveness, due to their absorption or bioavailability.

They can be quite easily split into, “best and worst” groups. However separating the top 2 or 3 can be a place for debate.

The list above has been highlighted. Blue = best and Red = worst.

What brands are good? has ranked the top 30. You can view them either by highest quality or best value,  zinc here, and magnesium here. also have written a good article on some basic tips on what time of day to take certain supplements. Read it here. It basically says that Zinc is best taken in the morning one hour before food or 2 hours after meals, it can, however, be a bit rough on some people’s stomachs. Magnesium has some calming effects, and studies have shown it can help with sleep, so this is, of course, best taken at night.

Minerals can also compete for absorption when taken together, so having zinc in the morning and magnesium in the morning helps with absorption rates.

Comment below with the brands that work best for you.