Zinc Deficiency

March 18, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

If you’ve been feeling a little down lately, you may want to consider whether your zinc status is causing or exacerbating those “blue” feelings. By zinc status, I mean the amount of zinc you’re getting by way of diet and supplementation. Thanks to some really compelling research, I’d like to make a case for the use of zinc in maintaining and promoting a happier state of mind.

Depression in the Brain

Zinc Happy Thoughts

A brand new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders provides support for the concept of integrative medicine – the judicious melding of conventional and natural medicine.

A group of 60 depressed adults with ages ranging from 18-55 participated in this current experiment. All of these patients were currently using a pharmaceutical antidepressant. Half of the group was then asked to take a zinc supplement (25 mg a day) or an identical placebo for a 12 week period.

The results of the study were very specific. The patients who already responded well to the antidepressant found no additional benefits to taking zinc. But those who were unresponsive to the medication alone, found a significant improvement when they included supplemental zinc.

This wasn’t the first study to find a connection between zinc levels and a healthy mood. Here’s a  brief review of a few other studies that provide a strong foundation for this mineral/mood connection:

  • An October 2008 study in the journal Physiology & Behavior showed that rats who were deprived of zinc developed signs of anxiety, depression and eating disorders.
  • An Australian study published at the beginning of 2009 examined the nutritional status of 115 nursing home residents. The goal of the study was to find any relationship between nutrient levels and depression. It was determined that those with lower serum (blood) zinc scores were more likely to suffer from depression. There was also a connection between inadequate zinc and slower Timed Up and Go Test results (see image below).
Timed Up and Go Test

Finally, there is research emerging that may help to explain why zinc can promote a feeling a psychological wellness. One of the chief mechanisms is reported in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of Neural Transmission. In it, zinc was shown to bring about a rapid anti-depressant effect by increasing the level of a brain protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor). Chronic stress lowers the amount of BDHF levels in the hippocampal region of the brain. By increasing BDNF, an anti-stress and anti-depressive action may take place as a result of zinc consumption.

If you’re suffering from depression or any other psychological malady, it would be wise to try and rule out any nutritional deficiency that may be contributing to your problem. A good multi-vitamin/mineral can often be the simple answer for many people. At the very least, it’s a good place to start since zinc is not the only nutrient that plays a role in promoting a healthy state of mind.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


Tags: , ,
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Mental Health, Nutritional Supplements

8 Comments & Updates to “Zinc Deficiency”

  1. Linda Says:

    Interesting post. Minerals are not given much attention in most articles about nutrition.

  2. JP Says:

    Thanks, Linda.

    I’ll try to focus more on the importance of minerals in future blogs.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Update: Zinc supports healthy thyroid function and health …


    J Am Coll Nutr. 2015 Mar 11:1-9.

    Effects of Zinc and Selenium Supplementation on Thyroid Function in Overweight and Obese Hypothyroid Female Patients: A Randomized Double-Blind Controlled Trial.

    OBJECTIVE: Zinc (Zn) and selenium (Se) are essential trace elements involved in thyroid hormone metabolism. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of Zn and Se supplementation on thyroid function of overweight or obese female hypothyroid patients in a double-blind, randomized controlled trial.

    METHODS: Sixty-eight female hypothyroid patients were randomly allocated to one of the 4 supplementation groups receiving Zn + Se (ZS; 30 mg Zn as zinc-gluconate and 200 μg Se as high-selenium yeast), Zn + placebo (ZP), Se + placebo (SP), or placebo + placebo (PP) for 12 weeks. Serum Zn, Se, free and total triiodothyronine (FT3 and FT4), free and total thyroxine (FT4 and TT4), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and anthropometric parameters were measured. Dietary intake was recorded using 24-hour food recall. Physical activity questionnaire was completed.

    RESULTS: No significant alterations were found in serum Zn or Se concentrations. Mean serum FT3 increased significantly in the ZS and ZP groups (p < 0.05) but this effect was significant in the ZP group compared to those in SP or PP groups (p < 0.05). Mean serum FT4 increased and TSH decreased significantly (p < 0.05) in the ZS group. TT3 and TT4 decreased significantly in the SP group (p < 0.05). Mean FT3:FT4 ratio was augmented significantly in the ZP group (p < 0.05). No significant treatment effects were found for TT3, FT4, TT4, or TSH between groups. CONCLUSION: This study showed some evidence of an effect of Zn alone or in combination with Se on thyroid function of overweight or obese female hypothyroid patients. Be well! JP

  4. JP Says:

    Update: Certain diet and lifestyle choices affect zinc status …


    Ginekol Pol. 2014 Nov;85(11):838-42.

    Effects of substances on serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women.

    INTRODUCTION: Demographic facts and forecasts about lengthening life expectancy motivate to systematize the knowledge of health problems experienced by women at the age of 50 and older. It refers to the whole health policy including health economics. Longer female life spans cause that an increasing number of women suffer from health problems associated with the perimenopausal period, and become health care recipients. Also a shift of retirement age is the reason to take interdisciplinary actions for women’s health and quality of life. This study describes a decline in the levels of many bioelements in hair, urine and blood serum, which progresses with age. It not only correlates with a decrease in the synthesis and secretion of estrogen, but also environmental pollution, unhealthy lifestyle and the use of substances.

    AIM OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study was to determine the correlation between serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women and such variables as the use of substances (cigarettes, alcohol) and menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). Material and method: The study was conducted among 152 healthy women being 1-16 years after menopause. The women were divided into study group (MHT users) and control group (MHT non-users). A sub-division criterion was the use of substances (cigarettes, alcohol). Serum zinc levels were determined in all women. Results: The use of substances significantly contributed to the lowering of serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women. MHT users had statistically higher average zinc levels in blood serum, which referred both to smokers and consumers of alcohol and those who did not use these substances.

    CONCLUSIONS: (1) The use-of substances (cigarettes, alcohol) contributes to the lowering of zinc levels in blood serum. (2) MHT positively affects serum zinc levels in postmenopausal women regardless of whether they use substances (cigarettes, alcohol) or not.

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Update: Inadequate zinc linked to poor mental health in nursing home residents …


    PLoS ONE. 2015;10(1):e0117257.

    Serum Zinc Concentrations Correlate with Mental and Physical Status of Nursing Home Residents. van Wouwe J, ed.

    “Conclusions: Nursing home residents seem at risk of marginal Zn status, which correlates with their mental status as measured by the AMTS and GDS. Their low FS is associated with mental health deterioration and obesity.”

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Update 04/21/15:


    BMC Fam Pract. 2015 Feb 25;16(1):24.

    The effectiveness of high dose zinc acetate lozenges on various common cold symptoms: a meta-analysis.

    BACKGROUND: A previous meta-analysis found that high dose zinc acetate lozenges reduced the duration of common colds by 42%, whereas low zinc doses had no effect. Lozenges are dissolved in the pharyngeal region, thus there might be some difference in the effect of zinc lozenges on the duration of respiratory symptoms in the pharyngeal region compared with the nasal region. The objective of this study was to determine whether zinc acetate lozenges have different effects on the duration of common cold symptoms originating from different anatomical regions.

    METHODS: We analyzed three randomized trials on zinc acetate lozenges for the common cold administering zinc in doses of 80-92 mg/day. All three trials reported the effect of zinc on seven respiratory symptoms, and three systemic symptoms. We pooled the effects of zinc lozenges for each symptom and calculated point estimates and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

    RESULTS: Zinc acetate lozenges shortened the duration of nasal discharge by 34% (95% CI: 17% to 51%), nasal congestion by 37% (15% to 58%), sneezing by 22% (-1% to 45%), scratchy throat by 33% (8% to 59%), sore throat by 18% (-10% to 46%), hoarseness by 43% (3% to 83%), and cough by 46% (28% to 64%). Zinc lozenges shortened the duration of muscle ache by 54% (18% to 89%), but there was no difference in the duration of headache and fever.

    CONCLUSIONS: The effect of zinc acetate lozenges on cold symptoms may be associated with the local availability of zinc from the lozenges, with the levels being highest in the pharyngeal region. However our findings indicate that the effects of zinc ions are not limited to the pharyngeal region. There is no indication that the effect of zinc lozenges on nasal symptoms is less than the effect on the symptoms of the pharyngeal region, which is more exposed to released zinc ions. Given that the adverse effects of zinc in the three trials were minor, zinc acetate lozenges releasing zinc ions at doses of about 80 mg/day may be a useful treatment for the common cold, started within 24 hours, for a time period of less than two weeks.

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update 05/18/15:


    Nutritional Neuroscience – Volume 18, Issue 4

    Objective: Previous studies have shown a positive effect of zinc as an adjunctive therapy on reducing depressive symptoms. However, to our knowledge, no study has examined the effect of zinc monotherapy on mood. The aim of the present study was to determine the effects of zinc monotherapy on depressive symptoms and serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in overweight or obese subjects.

    Methods: Fifty overweight or obese subjects were randomly assigned into two groups and received either 30 mg zinc or placebo daily for 12 weeks. At baseline and post-intervention, depression severity was assessed using Beck depression inventory II (BDI II), and serum BDNF and zinc levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and atomic absorption spectrophotometry, respectively.

    Results: The trial was completed with 46 subjects. After a 12-week supplementation, serum zinc and BDNF levels increased significantly in the zinc-supplemented group compared with the placebo group. BDI scores declined in both the groups at the end of the study, but reduction in the zinc-supplemented group was significantly higher than the placebo group. More analysis revealed that following supplementation, BDI scores decreased in subgroup of subjects with depressive symptoms (BDI ≥ 10) (n = 30), but did not change in the subgroup of non-depressed subjects (BDI < 10) (n = 16). Moreover, a significant inverse correlation was observed between serum BDNF levels and depression severity in all participants. Interestingly, a significant positive correlation was found between serum BDNF and zinc levels at baseline. Conclusion: Zinc monotherapy improves mood in overweight or obese subjects most likely through increasing BDNF levels. Be well! JP

  8. JP Says:

    Updated 08/06/15:


    Nutr Metab (Lond). 2015 Aug 4;12:26.

    Effects of Zinc supplementation on serum lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

    Zinc is a mineral that plays a vital role in many biological processes and plays an important role in insulin action and carbohydrate metabolism. It may also have a protective role in the prevention of atherogenesis. Numerous studies have evaluated the effects of Zinc supplementation on serum lipids in humans and have demonstrated varying results. We systematically evaluated the literature and performed a meta-analysis on the effects of Zinc supplementation on serum lipids. A five staged comprehensive search of the literature was conducted in the following databases; PubMed, Web of Science and SciVerse Scopus for studies published before 31st December 2014. All controlled clinical trial in humans, that included a Zinc supplement intervention, either alone or in combination with other micronutrients and evaluated effects on serum lipids (total cholesterol [TC], triglycerides [TG], LDL cholesterol [LDL-c] and HDL cholesterol [HDL-c]). A meta-analysis of selected studies was performed using RevMan v5.3. The Jaded scale was used to assess the methodological quality of the trials included in the systematic review. A total of 24 studies were included in Meta analysis, which included a total of 33 Zinc interventions, in a total of 14,515 participants in the Zinc intervention or control group. The duration of Zinc supplementation ranged from 1 month to 7.5 years. The dose of elemental Zinc supplemented ranged from 15-240 mg/day. The pooled mean difference for TC between Zinc supplemented and placebo groups from random effects analysis was -10.92 mg/dl (95 % CI: -15.33, -6.52; p < 0.0001, I(2) = 83 %), while for HDL cholesterol it was 2.12 mg/dl (95 % CI: -0.74, 4.98; p = 0.15, I(2) = 83 %). The pooled mean difference for LDL-c between Zinc supplemented and placebo group from random effect analysis was -6.87 mg/dl (95 % CI: -11.16,-2.58; p < 0.001, I(2) = 31) and for TG it was -10.92 mg/dl (95 % CI: -18.56, – 3.28; p < 0.01, I(2) = 69 %). In conclusion, Zinc supplementation has favourable effects on plasma lipid parameters. Zinc supplementation significantly reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Therefore it may have the potential to reduce the incidence of atherosclerosis related morbidity and mortality. Be well! JP

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