Can Zinc Help Stop Respiratory Infections? 

A lesser-known support agent, zinc, plays a significant role in the immune system, helping to elicit the most favorable immune response.  A zinc deficiency can cause immune dysfunction and an interruption to innate and adaptive immunity. Zinc facilitates communication with its ligands (bonds with amino acid side chains) in the body. These ligands bind to immune cells and play a key role in complex cell signaling.  It is estimated that about one-third of the world’s population is zinc deficient and that about 16% of lower respiratory infections can be attributed to a zinc deficiency. 

Zinc and Viruses 

Revolutionary research into viruses has shown a potential treatment – zinc. Researchers from Austin Health and the University of Melbourne are investigating the use of intravenous zinc to fight the symptoms associated with viruses. This research is based on evidence that zinc may help to slow the rate that viruses replicate in the body. A clinical trial has been fast-tracked to test the benefits of a daily injection of zinc chloride in patients with viruses.  

Zinc and Pneumonia

In a 2018 study,2 zinc was investigated for its potential ability to reduce the mortality rate of severe pneumonia. Supplementation with zinc may be able to prevent acute lower respiratory tract infections and reduce the severity of pneumonia cases by decreasing the duration of symptoms. This essential trace mineral can help protect the health and integrity of respiratory cells when the lungs become inflamed, such as during an illness caused by viruses.  

What are the signs of a zinc deficiency?  

  • Altered/loss of taste and smell
  • Lack or loss of appetite
  • Impaired cognitive function
  • Impaired memory
  • Poor night vision
  • White spotting of nails
  • Prostate issues
  • Uncoordinated movements
  • Decreased immunity
  • Excessive hair loss
  • Poor wound healing
  • Some forms of dermatitis

How can you increase your zinc levels? 

Zinc is a critical micronutrient, but many supplements on the market are formulated using poor sources of zinc such as zinc oxide or zinc carbonate. Due to their minimal ionic charge, these forms are poorly absorbed in the body. For those who are zinc deficient, adding a high-quality zinc supplement to your diet may help prevent respiratory illness. However, not all zinc supplements are created equal.   

When taking a supplement, bioavailability (the proportion of the supplement that enters the bloodstream and has an active effect) matters greatly, so look for a hydrated form of zinc that is water soluble and highly absorbable for the most optimal health benefits. 

To boost zinc in your diet, good plant-based sources of zinc include legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans which all contain substantial amounts of zinc. In fact, cooked lentils (100 grams) contain around 12% of the DV for zinc. Other good sources of plant-based zinc are green peas, tofu, tempeh, nuts and seeds (always avoid roasted or highly heated nuts/seeds).  

Research is underway to investigate the use of zinc in shortening infections. However, ensuring that you are getting enough of this trace mineral can help aid the immune system in fighting bacteria and viruses, make proteins, create DNA, and heal wounds. Zinc is key, be sure you are getting enough of it!


  2. Wang L, Song Y.Efficacy of zinc given as an adjunct to the treatment of severe pneumonia: A meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled trials. Clin Respir J. 2018 Mar;12(3):857-864. doi: 10.1111/crj.12646. Epub 2017 May 31