Health & Wellness

Zinc Forms and Formats – Which is Best?

Zinc Basics

Zinc is the second-most-abundantly distributed trace mineral inside the body after iron and is an essential nutrient, which means we are unable to produce or store it, so it must be supplied daily via diet and/or supplementation. The Zinc is present in every single cell in the human body, where it works in tandem with over 100 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions.

Zinc is naturally present in meats, poultry, seafood, and in certain plant foods like legumes and whole grains. It’s also widely available in supplements in a wide range of forms, either by itself or in multivitamin and mineral blends as well as in immune-boosting formulas. So, what’s the best form of zinc supplement? Read on…

Different Forms of Zinc

Zinc supplements are available in many forms like; gluconate, citrate, picolinate, and bisglycinate. The biggest difference between these forms is the percentage of elemental zinc in each supply. This is crucial because when it comes to taking a mineral supplement, the primary goal is to absorb the greatest amount of the elemental mineral from the fewest number of capsules possible.

Zinc Bisglycinate – In this form, the zinc has undergone a process called chelation – i.e. an organic molecule that has been given an electrical charge, which allows it to positively attract the charged mineral (in this case zinc). This increases the concentration of the mineral in the molecule. The bisglycinate form is well-tolerated, well-absorbed, and is reputed for being absorbed intact, so does not compete with other minerals for absorption in the intestinal tract. This is why zinc bisglycinate is often the preferred form of zinc.

Zinc Citrate – Zinc citrate is available as dihydrate and trihydrate and is produced by neutralizing citric acid with a highly purified zinc source, then subsequent precipitation, and dehydration. This results in a low-molecular-weight, water-soluble compound with a high zinc concentration and is well-absorbed. Zinc citrate is considered a bioavailable form of zinc and offers approximately 34% elemental zinc by weight.

Zinc Gluconate – This is one of the most common forms of zinc supplement and is most often used in cold blends, lozenges, and nasal sprays. The Zinc gluconate is the zinc salt of gluconic acid and is an ionic compound. If you’re a chemistry buff, this ionic compound consists of two anions of gluconate for each zinc cation (2+) – in sum, it supplies 14.3% elemental zinc. Certain studies have suggested that zinc may be better absorbed in the gluconate form; however, other studies have disproven this.

Zinc Picolinate – Zinc picolinate – an acid form of zinc that the human body can easily absorb – is considered by many to be the best and most absorbable form of zinc. Indeed, the absorption of zinc in the body is a complex process that involves the mineral passing through the intestinal membranes into the bloodstream and is ultimately delivered to the individual cells. Studies suggest that after four weeks of supplementation, subjects had higher zinc levels in their hair, skin, and urine versus those taking zinc in their citrate or gluconate forms.

Different Zinc Formats

Zinc is available as a standalone supplement in tablet and capsule form and is also commonly available in lozenges and nasal sprays.

Zinc Capsules – Capsules are often the preferred choice because they are convenient and able to conceal unpleasant tastes or textures. They are also smaller and easier to swallow than tablets, which is ideal for those who have trouble swallowing.

Zinc Liquids – Liquid supplements are easy to use for people who don’t like to swallow tabs or caps, and they may also be more completely absorbed inside the body; so ideal for those looking to increase zinc levels in the blood.

Zinc Lozenges – When taken to bolster the immune system, zinc may be most effective in the lozenge form, which allows the mineral to stay in the throat and come in contact with the virus and prevent its replication. The lozenge form is ideal also for those suffering from pill fatigue.

Zinc Tablets – Probably the biggest advantage of tablets is that they are less expensive than capsules and can accommodate more of the active ingredients than capsules, so more bang for your buck. However, it’s important to note that tablets are not absorbed as fast as capsules and may be poorly disintegrated in the GI tract.

Final Thoughts

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to zinc supplements. The form you take depends on why you’re taking zinc in the first place and how much you need; however, some forms are more superiorly absorbed than others. The format is a personal preference and lifestyle can impact which form you take for convenience.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your practitioner prior to taking herbs or nutritional supplements.

Roos Jonsin

Roos Jonsin is a Canadian naturopath and researcher dedicated to helping people live healthier lives through education about vitamins, herbs, and nutritional supplements. Roos also consults with suppliers and manufacturers with product development and marketing. National Nutrition is Canada’s leading health & nutritional supplements store, also voted as the Best Health Food Store in Canada by the experts at Canadian Health Food Association. Email:

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Roos Jonsin

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