Acne: Is Zinc Useful As A Treatment? What Is The Evidence?
Acne is a skin disorder most often seen in adolescence, in which the sebaceous glands of the skin become infected and pus-laden. It is a disfiguring condition which can cause considerable distress to the sufferer. Zinc is one of the treatments which has been proposed for acne: others include formulations of antibiotics. At least one study has compared the effectiveness of zinc supplementation with antibiotic treatment of acne, and found that while zinc had some degree of effectiveness in treating the condition, the antibiotic formulation was more effective.1
Can Zinc Be Useful In Treating Acne?
Zinc is a mineral which is normally abundant in the human body. It is a vital part of many functions, organs and enzymic interactions, including those relating to skin health. There have been numerous studies in recent years into zinc’s effectiveness as a treatment for acne, with varying results.
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Is zinc helpful for treating all types of acne? It has most commonly been looked at as a treatment for inflammatory acne, and there is less research or information on its use in treatment of other kinds of acne.2 Zinc has been suggested as a treatment for other skin problems such as psoriasis and dermatitis.3
Dietary Zinc: Where Can You Find It?
What foods should you eat if you are looking to bump up your zinc intake? Meats and fish, especially certain types of seafood such as oysters, are rich in zinc. Dairy foods and eggs also have significant quantities of zinc, but this may be harder to assimilate than in meat dishes. Whole grains and other vegetarian options often have reasonable amounts of zinc, but this may be comparatively difficult to obtain from the food as it is often bound up in the form of phytates. Grains tend to store most of their zinc content in the outer layer of the grain: therefore refined grains are not a good source of zinc.
How much zinc do you need as part of a normal diet? The U.S. RDA for men is 11mg, for women 8mg.4 Some writers have suggested greater quantities as a treatment for acne amongst other conditions. If you are considering ingesting quantities of vitamins or minerals greater than the recommended daily allowance, you should consult your medical professional before doing so. Excessive supplementation with one nutrient only may result in an unbalanced general intake of nutrients. Intake of copper and iron, for instance, are delicately balanced with intake of zinc.
Doses of less than 100-150mg of zinc have been described as not toxic, although such high amounts may not be good for absorption of other nutrients.3 Doses of above 300mg for a few weeks only in some studies have been found to create immune problems.3
Forms of zinc supplementation available include zinc picolinate, zinc sulphate, zinc gluconate and chelated zinc. It is available in tablet, capsule and effervescent tablet formulations.
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1. Drenoa, B., Moyseb, D., Alirezaic, M., Amblardd, P., Auffrete, N., Beylotf, C., Bodokhg, I, Chivoth, M., Daniele, F., Humbertj, P., Meynadierc, J., Polik, F. et al. "Multicenter Randomized Comparative Double-Blind Controlled Clinical Trial of the Safety and Efficacy of Zinc Gluconate versus Minocycline Hydrochloride in the Treatment of Inflammatory Acne vulgaris." Dermatology 2001.203: pp. 135-140
2. DiSilvestro, R.A. "Handbook of minerals as nutritional supplements." Boca Raton: CRC Press, LLC, 2005.
3. Haas, E.M., Levin, B. "Staying healthy with nutrition: the complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine." Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006.
4. Office of Dietary Supplements. " Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Zinc." http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov 6/30/2009 (03/01/2010). <http://dietary-supplements.info.nih.gov/FactSheets/Zinc.asp?