Tag Archives: zinc

ZINC, ionophores, supplements and COVID-19

ZINC is an essential mineral present in many foods. It is also available as a dietary supplement. Zinc in combination with a zinc ionophore (which helps zinc enter human cells) can inhibit viral replication in human cells. It does this by blocking RNA POLYMERASE, which is necessary for replication of the CORONA VIRUS.

Zinc is required for proper functioning of more than 300 important enzymes in our bodies and plays an essential role in:

Immune Function

Protein Synthesis

Wound Healing

DNA Synthesis

Normal Growth and Devlopement During Pregnancy, Childhood and Adolescence

A daily intake of ZINC IS REQUIRED because the human body has no specialized storage system.

“Zn is an essential trace element for all organisms. In human subjects body growth and development is strictly dependent on Zn. The nervous, reproductive and immune systems are particularly influenced by Zn deficiency, as well as by increased levels of Zn. The relationship between Zn and the immune system is complex, since there are four different types of influence associated with Zn. (1) The dietary intake and the resorption of Zn depends on the composition of the diet and also on age and disease status. (2) Zn is a cofactor in more than 300 enzymes influencing various organ functions having a secondary effect on the immune system. (3) Direct effects of Zn on the production, maturation and function of leucocytes. (4) Zn influences the function of immunostimulants used in the experimental systems.”

Zinc deficiency is very common amongst the elderly which may contribute to the high death rate for COVID-19 for folks 65 and older.

From the NIH:

“some evidence suggests that zinc intakes among older adults might be marginal. An analysis of NHANES III data found that 35%–45% of adults aged 60 years or older had zinc intakes below the estimated average requirement of 6.8 mg/day for elderly females and 9.4 mg/day for elderly males. When the investigators considered intakes from both food and dietary supplements, they found that 20%–25% of older adults still had inadequate zinc intakes

You can read more about Zinc here.

Here is a list of zinc levels in various foods:

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Zinc [11]
Food Milligrams (mg)
per serving
Percent DV*
Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces 74.0 673
Beef chuck roast, braised, 3 ounces 7.0 64
Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces 6.5 59
Beef patty, broiled, 3 ounces 5.3 48
Lobster, cooked, 3 ounces 3.4 31
Pork chop, loin, cooked, 3 ounces 2.9 26
Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, ½ cup 2.9 26
Breakfast cereal, fortified with 25% of the DV for zinc, 1 serving 2.8 25
Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces 2.4 22
Pumpkin seeds, dried, 1 ounce 2.2 20
Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces 1.7 15

When CNN discussed the importance of ZINC relative to COVID-19, zinc supplements disappeared from the shelves in pharmacies and health food stores. Zinc supplements are still out of stock in most on-line supplement sites.

Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine are anti-malarial drugs (also used to treat Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis) that act as Zinc Ionophores.

So far, all the studies on the use of anti-malarial drugs for COVID-19 have been disappointing with no randomized/controlled trials demonstrating clinical benefit (no reduction in death rates). But NONE OF THESE STUDIES CHECKED ZINC LEVELS OR PROVIDED ZINC SUPPLEMENTATION!!!

In addition, as discussed before, these anti-malarial drugs can cause significant (and rarely lethal) side effects.

There are dietary sources of zinc ionophores that do not require a prescription.

Quercetin and EGCG (Epigallocatechin-gallate) both act as zinc ionophores in-vitro (in cell cultures).

“Dietary plant polyphenols such as the flavonoids quercetin (QCT) and epigallocatechin-gallate act as antioxidants and as signaling molecules. Remarkably, the activities of numerous enzymes that are targeted by polyphenols are dependent on zinc. We have previously shown that these polyphenols chelate zinc cations and hypothesized that these flavonoids might be also acting as zinc ionophores, transporting zinc cations through the plasma membrane. To prove this hypothesis, herein, we have demonstrated the capacity of QCT and epigallocatechin-gallate to rapidly increase labile zinc in mouse hepatocarcinoma Hepa 1-6 cells as well as, for the first time, in liposomes.”

Quercetin is the most abundant dietary polyphenol.

Foods Quercetin
capers, raw 234[6]
capers, canned 173[6]
dock like sorrel 86[6]
radish leaves 70[6]
carob fiber 58[6]
dill 55[8]
cilantro 53[6]
Hungarian wax pepper 51[6]
fennel leaves 49[6]
onion, red 32[6]
radicchio 32[6]
watercress 30[6]
kale 23[6]
chokeberry 19[6]
bog blueberry 18[6]
cranberry 15[6]
lingonberry 13[6]
plums, black 12[6]

It is also available as a dietary supplement.

EGCG is found in green tea but has low bioavailability.

EGCG in very high doses can cause liver toxicity. From WIKIPEDIA:

A 2018 review showed that excessive intake of EGCG may cause liver toxicity.[15] In 2018, the European Food Safety Authority stated that daily intake of 800 mg or more could increase risk of liver damage.[16] The degree of toxicity varies by person, suggesting that it is potentiated by genetic predisposition and the diet eaten during the period of ingestion, or other factors.[17]

Zinc is an essential mineral but can be toxic when taken at high doses.

From the NIH:

“Zinc toxicity can occur in both acute and chronic forms. Acute adverse effects of high zinc intake include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and headaches [2]. One case report cited severe nausea and vomiting within 30 minutes of ingesting 4 g of zinc gluconate (570 mg elemental zinc) [84]. Intakes of 150–450 mg of zinc per day have been associated with such chronic effects as low copper status, altered iron function, reduced immune function, and reduced levels of high-density lipoproteins [85]. Reductions in a copper-containing enzyme, a marker of copper status, have been reported with even moderately high zinc intakes of approximately 60 mg/day for up to 10 weeks [2]. The doses of zinc used in the AREDS study (80 mg per day of zinc in the form of zinc oxide for 6.3 years, on average) have been associated with a significant increase in hospitalizations for genitourinary causes, raising the possibility that chronically high intakes of zinc adversely affect some aspects of urinary physiology [86].

The FNB has established ULs for zinc (Table 3). Long-term intakes above the UL increase the risk of adverse health effects [2]. The ULs do not apply to individuals receiving zinc for medical treatment, but such individuals should be under the care of a physician who monitors them for adverse health effects.”

Table 3: Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for Zinc [2]
Age Male Female Pregnant Lactating
0–6 months 4 mg 4 mg
7–12 months 5 mg 5 mg
1–3 years 7 mg 7 mg
4–8 years 12 mg 12 mg
9–13 years 23 mg 23 mg
14–18 years 34 mg 34 mg 34 mg 34 mg
19+ years 40 mg 40 mg 40 mg 40 mg

Most zinc supplements come in doses of 25-50 mg of elemental zinc.

There are potential interactions between medications and zinc. The following medications decrease the absorption of zinc.

Quinolone antibiotics (including Cipro)

Tetracycline antibiotics.

Penicillamine (used to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis, a known risk factor for bad outcomes in COVID-19)

Thiazide diuretics (chlorthalidone, hydrochlorothiazide) and these can lead to chronic zinc deficiency. They are used to treat hypertension which is a known risk factor for bad outcomes in COVID-19.

In the setting of COVID-19, a Paleo/Ancestral TYPE anti-inflammatory diet is VERY IMPORTANT.

There are many reasons including the following benefits of such a diet:

  1.  High intake of zinc and foods containing quercetin and EGCG
  2.  Avoidance of foods high in phytic acid which blocks the absorption of zinc and many other essential minerals such as magnesium, calcium, and iron.
  3.  Improved blood sugar control (diabetes and insulin resistance increase the risk of death from COVID-19)
  4.  Improved blood pressure (hypertension increases the risk of death from COVID-19)
  5.  Avoidance of alcohol which increase risk of death from COVID-19 by impairing immune function.

A physician friend and colleague recently wrote a post that documents the benefits of a carbohydrate restricted, whole foods diet, with elimination of processed and sugar-added foods and beverages. I highly recommend you read it here.

With regards to maintaining a properly functioning immune system a few simple lifestyle habits are essential,

In the context of the COVID 19 pandemic I will close with the usual summary.

  1. Avoid alcohol consumption (alcohol wreaks havoc with your immunity)
  2. Get plenty of sleep (without adequate sleep your immune system does not work well )
  3. Follow good sleep habits
  4. Exercise, especially out of doors in a green space, supports the immune system
  5. Get some sunshine and make sure you have adequate Vitamin D levels. Supplement with Vitamin D3 to get your levels above 30 ng/ml, >40ng/ml arguably better.
  6. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in micronutrients.
  7. Practice stress reduction like meditation and yoga which improves the immune system
  8. Eliminate sugar-added foods and beverages from your diet. These increase inflammation, cause metabolic dysfunction, and suppress immunity.
  9. Eliminate refined-inflammatory “vegetable oils” from your diet, instead eat healthy fat.
  10. Clean up your home environment and minimize your family’s exposure to environmental toxins by following recommendations at EWG.org with regards to household products, personal care products, and organic foods. (https://www.ewg.org/)
  11. Drink water filtered through a high quality system that eliminates most environmental toxins.
  12. HEPA filters or the home-made version (Corsi-Rosenthal box) used in your home or workplace can reduce circulating viral load by 80%. This works for any respiratory virus transmitted by aerosol and this winter we have the triple threat of RSV, Influenza, and SARS-CoV-2. It also decreases indoor air pollution.
  13. If you are eligible for vaccination, consider protecting yourself and your neighbor with a few jabs. Age > 50 and/or risk factors (Diabetes, pre-diabetes, insulin resistance, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, COPD, asthma, cancer treatment, immune suppression) suggests benefit from a booster. Risk for complications of boosters in adolescents, especially males, without risk factors, may equal benefit. Previous infection with Covid can be considered as protective as a booster. Discuss risk vs benefits with your doctor.

Finally, think about ZINC and ZINC IONOPHORES  relative to diet and personal habits. While there have not been studies using zinc in combination with zinc ionophores (and there likely will never be) relative to COVID-19, all available scientific information about the relationship between corona virus replication and these two items indicates that in combination they might provide benefit. It is a shame that the studies in progress have not considered zinc status in patients receiving the anti-malarial drugs.


Eat clean, drink filtered water, love, laugh, exercise outdoors in a greenspace, get some morning sunlight, block the blue light before bed, engage in meaningful work, find a sense of purpose, spend time with those you love, AND sleep well tonight.

Doctor Bob