Chelated zinc is a type of zinc supplement. It contains zinc that’s been attached to a chelating agent.

Chelating agents are chemical compounds that bond with metal ions (such as zinc) to create a stable, water-soluble product that can be easily absorbed by the body.

Zinc supplements are used by people who can’t get enough zinc in their regular diet. Zinc is an essential micronutrient that’s vital to your health.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of chelated zinc, how much to take if you have a zinc deficiency, and interactions to be aware of.

Zinc is a micronutrient that’s found in cells throughout your body. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), zinc is crucial to many aspects of your health. Here are a few examples of what zinc does:

  • helps your immune system defend against viruses and bacteria
  • supports your body’s protein production
  • helps your body make DNA (the genetic material in all cells)
  • supports your senses of smell and taste
  • helps wounds heal

Chelated zinc is a zinc supplement that’s easily absorbed by your body.

Because it’s difficult for your body to efficiently absorb zinc on its own, zinc is often attached to a chelating agent in supplements. A chelating agent is a substance that bonds with zinc to create a more absorbable end product.

Chelated zinc is mainly made using one of the following compounds: amino acids or organic acids.

Amino acids

  • aspartic acid: used to make zinc aspartate
  • methionine: used to make zinc methionine
  • monomethionine: used to make zinc monomethionine

Organic acids

  • acetic acid: used to make zinc acetate
  • citric acid: used to make zinc citrate
  • gluconic acid: used to make zinc gluconate
  • orotic acid: used to make zinc orotate
  • picolinic acid: used to make zinc picolinate

Zinc supplements combining zinc with inorganic acids such as sulfates (zinc sulfate) and oxides (zinc oxide) are also available.

Which type of chelated zinc has the best absorption?

The more easily absorbed types of zinc supplements include:

  • zinc picolinate
  • zinc citrate
  • zinc acetate
  • zinc monomethionine

According to the NIH, the current recommended daily allowances (RDA) for zinc (in milligrams) are:

0–6 months 2 mg (adequate intake) 2 mg (adequate intake)
7–12 months 3 mg 3 mg
1–3 years 3 mg 3 mg
4–8 years 5 mg 5 mg
9–13 years 8 mg 8 mg
14–18 years 11 mg 9 mg
19+ years 11 mg 8 mg

People who are pregnant need slightly more zinc than is recommended for people who aren’t pregnant. Pregnant teens and adults need 12 mg and 11 mg, respectively, of zinc daily; breastfeeding teens and adults need 13 mg and 12 mg.

Yes, it’s possible to get too much zinc in your diet. Signs of this include:

Insufficient zinc in your diet can have the following effects:

  • slow growth for infants and children
  • delayed sexual developments in adolescents
  • impotence in men
  • hair loss
  • diarrhea
  • skin and eye sores
  • weight loss
  • problems with wound healing
  • lowered ability to taste and smell food
  • decreased alertness levels

Zinc deficiency is uncommon in North America according to the NIH.

Those who are at risk of getting an inadequate amount of zinc include:

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is some risk of zinc supplements interacting with certain medications you may be taking, including:

  • Quinolone or tetracycline antibiotics: Zinc may affect absorption of these types of antibiotics. Talk to your doctor to see if taking a zinc supplement 2 hours before or 4 to 6 hours after these antibiotics will help prevent this interaction.
  • Penicillamine (Depen, Cuprimine): This medication may decrease the amount of zinc in your body. Talk to your doctor to see if you can take a zinc supplement 2 hours before penicillamine to avoid this interaction.
  • Thiazide diuretics: These blood pressure medications increase the amount of zinc that you lose when you urinate. Talk to your doctor about taking zinc supplements while using this type of diuretic.

You need zinc for a number of vital health benefits including immune system function, DNA synthesis, and growth. Chelated zinc is more easily absorbed by your body than zinc on its own.

Before adding a zinc supplement to your diet, discuss your plans with a doctor. They can help make sure that you’re taking the proper dose and that the supplement won’t negatively interact with other medications you’re using.