Zinc is the second most abundant element in our body, behind iron. We only need trace elements for a healthy immune system, balanced sugar levels, good skin, sharp eyes and a strong heart. 

However, the body doesn’t store zinc; as a result, it needs to be consumed frequently. Sources of zinc, like red meat and fortified cereals, are often not enough to get your dose of zinc. Most multivitamins or supplements have different amounts of elemental zinc added. However, it’s essential to understand the difference between zinc and zinc sulfate and how your body absorbs them. 

Types of Zinc

Variations of elemental zinc are used for different medicines and supplements. They’re administered in different ways and absorbed in varying amounts. Zinc sulfate is the most commonly used form when trying to make up for a zinc deficiency. 

The manufacturing process of these different zinc supplements also affects what they’ll cost. This suggests that zinc will be used in various forms for varying reasons. 

Forms of Zinc in Medicines:

  • Zinc sulfate
  • Zinc gluconate
  • Zinc acetate
  • Zinc picolinate
  • Zinc orotate
  • Zinc citrate

Why do I need to know the difference?

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of zinc is between 11 mg and 15 mg for an adult but should not exceed 40 mg per day. The RDA is based on the mg of elemental zinc you need to take in. 

Unfortunately, supplement labels will list the amount of (for example) zinc sulfate that’s found in it. This means that the label might list 100 mg of zinc sulfate, which is only 23% elemental zinc. The amount of elemental zinc in the supplement is 23 mg, which should be compared to your RDA.   

What does zinc do?

Zinc is an essential trace element in your body and is vital for good health. Along with taking a supplement to improve overall health, zinc is used to treat acne, blood sugar and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It has been proven to reduce the duration of colds, wound healing, and improve immune function. 

The immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory effects of zinc make it an important supplement to take. It won’t outright cure or treat these health problems, but along with a doctor’s supervision, it can make a massive difference to your health and immune system in the short and long term.

Is zinc dangerous?

It’s easy to overdose on zinc because it can be found in many supplements and cold remedies. Symptoms of overdose include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fever, chills, cough, headache, fatigue, loss of taste and copper deficiency. Even pregnant women shouldn’t exceed the maximum daily dose of zinc intake. 

Zinc or zinc sulfate?

The most significant difference to note concerns the labelling of medications and supplements. Food contains elemental zinc, where manufactured products use zinc compounds. The RDA is based on your need for essential zinc and shouldn’t be confused with the mg per day of compounds like zinc sulfate