Zinc rich foods like liver, chicken, eggs, and nuts and seeds with a woman sticking out her tongue with wording zinc taste test + hazards of zinc deficiency by The Healthy RD

How To Do a Zinc Taste Test + Hazards of Zinc Deficiency

A zinc taste test is a simple way to help determine if you have a zinc deficiency. 

It can be a really helpful tool because zinc blood tests aren’t always very accurate or readily available for measuring zinc levels. 

In this post, learn how to do a zinc taste test in this post as well as the many reasons that zinc deficiency is problematic to your health.

How to do a zinc taste test

How to test for zinc status (also known as a zinc challenge):

  1. Obtain liquid zinc sulfate which is a zinc taste test kit that is a Standard Process zinc test
  2. Have a stopwatch or timer ready.
  3. Make sure you have not eaten for 1 hour before the test.  
  4. While doing the test, be aware of when your taste sensations kick in. 
  5. Hold 1 teaspoon of liquid zinc in your mouth and swish it around.
  6. Continue swishing for 10 seconds.
  7. Swallow the zinc.
  8. In 20 seconds, determine your zinc status by the following chart: 

Zinc taste test response:

  • Severe zinc deficiency– no taste in your mouth during or after the test
  • Moderate zinc deficiency-no taste, but then you have a taste after 10 seconds after swallowing the zinc
  • Adequate zinc levels-you can taste the zinc but it isn’t strong or unpleasant before swallowing
  • Ideal zinc level-instant and strong metallic or bitter taste upon the zinc hitting your tongue.
Taste SensationZinc Status
No taste or water tasteSevere deficiency
No initial taste, but can develop a taste after 10-15 secondsModerate deficiency
You can taste zinc, but it isn’t intense or unpleasant BEFORE swallowingAdequate zinc
You detect a strong and unpleasant taste of metallic/bitter flavorIdeal zinc
Zinc taste test table

Zinc taste test accuracy

The taste test described above is a zinc deficiency test.  

Surprisingly, its accuracy is between 70-100% accuracy according to some research, which is about as accurate as blood tests [R, R].  

Not only that, it is a simple and safe test to do that can give you an idea about your zinc status.  

Related post: Micronutrient Testing: When It’s Worth It to Optimize Health (thehealthyrd.com)

What is the most accurate zinc test?

Testing for zinc levels can be challenging.  When obtaining a blood test for zinc deficiency, red blood cell zinc is perhaps more accurate than checking a plasma zinc level according to research [R]. 

There are no standardized tests for zinc levels in the blood because blood only accounts for 0.5% of the total body levels of zinc [R]. 

However, even slight drops in zinc levels in the blood are often a sign of zinc deficiency.  

So, you can either check a red blood cell level of zinc or perform a zinc taste test. 

But, you should also be aware that these tests may not always detect a deficiency. 

Zinc for smell and taste

Zinc is involved in your taste perception, or taste acuity, of foods.  

In other words, people with low zinc body stores are less likely to be able to taste their foods and may suffer from altered appetite.  

I often hear people say that foods taste like cardboard, or just taste off. Not surprisingly, low zinc can be the root cause of this poor taste perception.  This can really take away the enjoyment of food. 

Not only that, altered taste due to zinc deficiency can be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the issues around zinc nutrition.

Zinc benefits overview

Zinc is a fascinating mineral that has thousands of functions in the body.  

One important function of zinc is transcribing DNA.  This means that zinc helps our DNA to make proteins in our bodies. 

Having adequate zinc levels in the body also helps repair DNA breaks or damage.

Further, a low intake of zinc contributes to accelerated aging in our bodies, making us more susceptible to many illnesses.

Zinc deficiency is quite common

Low zinc affects at least 2 billion people worldwide, and many more people likely have undetected zinc deficiency [R].

Likewise, inadequate diets, depleted soils, medication depletion, and poor absorption make low zinc levels in our bodies. 

In fact, it is a much more common problem than it should be.

One cause of zinc deficiency is soil content.

Low zinc levels in the soil are the most common soil problem in agriculture, according to recent research [R].

Related post: The Best Soil-Based Probiotics

Causes of zinc deficiency 

As mentioned above, low zinc levels can be caused by other many diet and lifestyle factors.  Here are some common causes of poor zinc status [R]: 

  • Alcohol intake
  • Poor quality diet
  • Rapid growth (young children and adolescents)
  • Pregnancy
  • Strict vegetarians
  • Eating disorders
  • Other restrictive diets
  • Stress
  • Sweating a lot (think athletes)
  • Medications
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Elderly

Sadly, many people I meet have 3 or more of the above issues.  

Related post: The Pros & Cons of Veganism.

Graphic of the functions of zinc in the body with a graphic of the human body as a back drop.  Wording helps immune function, supports optimal vision, growth and repair, keeps thyroid healthy, helps heart health, acts as an antioxidant, helps heal the gut, supports sexual function, protects DNA from damage, supports nerve tissue, builds proteins, protects the skin by The Healthy RD

Zinc deficiency symptoms:

Having zinc deficiency can show up in vague and difficult to pin down symptoms, including: 

  • Poor immunity
  • Diarrhea
  • Allergies
  • Thinning hair
  • Impaired gastrointestinal function
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Acne
  • Rashes
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Loss of appetite
  • Reduced ability to taste foods

However, these health issues can also be signs of other health conditions. So, it can be extra important to determine your zinc levels with a zinc taste test for this reason.

Medication-caused zinc depletion

As mentioned previously drug depletion of zinc and other nutrients is a common cause of zinc deficiency.

The problem is vast.

To help you sort it out, here is a partial list of medications that reduce zinc levels:

  • Calcium carbonate
  • Aluminum hydroxide
  • Antacids
  • Corticosteroids
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
  • Valproic acid
  • Birth control
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Blood pressure medications
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Diuretics
  • Stomach acid drugs

It isn’t uncommon for people to be on more than one of these medications as well. If you are prescribed any of these medications, it’s a good bet to take a good broad-spectrum natural multivitamin with minerals. 

Foods rich in zinc

Zinc in foods is most rich in seafood and red meats.  Also, keep in mind that plant sources have a reduced ability to absorb into the body due to their phytate content [R]. 

FoodServing sizeZinc amountPercent DV
Oysters3 oz74 mg673%
Liver 3 oz11 mg100%
Beef roast3 oz7 mg64%
Venison3 oz7 mg64%
Crab3 oz7 mg64%
Chicken leg1 leg2.7 mg28%
*Pumpkin seeds1/4 cup2.6 mg20%
Swiss cheese1 oz1.1 mg11%
*Black beans1/2 cup2 mg19%
*Kidney beans1/2 cup0.9 mg8%
Sources of zinc. Foods with a * are poorly absorbed unless you soak, sprout, and ferment them. DV is daily value.

It’s always a good idea to eat zinc-rich foods regularly and seafood, eggs, chicken, and red meats tend to be the highest source of zinc. 

What enhances and reduces zinc absorption?

When it comes to zinc nutrition, zinc from plant-based sources is poorly absorbed unless they are first soaked, sprouted, and ideally, fermented [R].

For example, fermenting rice allows the minerals like zinc to be absorbed better.

And in general, protein foods generally have higher amounts of zinc. Fascinatingly, having protein also greatly enhances the absorption of zinc [R].

Antacids and stomach acid medications reduce the ability to absorb zinc too. 

Zinc antioxidant and anti-aging effects.

Many people don’t realize that zinc functions as an antioxidant in the body.  Because of this, a deficiency of zinc can result in damage to your DNA. This means that low zinc levels can cause the aging of your DNA strands.

Intriguingly, adding zinc back to the diet of men helped repair the DNA damage from deficiency [R].

Telomeres are a protective part of the DNA.  They help protect cells from senescence, aging, and cancer.

These telomers can become damaged (shortened) by many factors, including low zinc levels. In fact, a very recent study found that zinc sulfate, as a cellular antioxidant, was able to lengthen or “reverse aging” in stem cells [R].

Importance of zinc in preventing DNA damage

DNA damage from zinc deficiency may increase the risk of many diseases, [R, R, R] including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Early death

Zinc is one piece of the puzzle for nutrients and aging.  Fascinatingly, taking a multivitamin with minerals, including zinc, resulted in increased DNA health in a recent research study [R].

Interestingly, zinc in young children even appears to reduce DNA damage (telomere shortening) [R].

In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, zinc supplementation for elderly patients helped repair DNA damage (telomeres) and also improved blood levels of antioxidants [R].

In fact, using zinc may reduce damage to DNA and oxidative stress, as well as early aging (senescence) of cells [R].

Another study found that zinc helped to reduce DNA damage caused by radiation in immune cells [R].

Impressively, supplemental zinc may even help prevent diseases like diabetes [R]. 

Zinc and immunity

By helping us have a healthy immune response, zinc helps protect the body [R].

Supplements of zinc at 30 mg per day, along with whey protein, was given to frail elderly hospitalized patients.  This combination improved activities of daily living and also improved markers of bone health (osteocalcin) and antioxidant status [R].

Not surprisingly, zinc deficiency increases the risk of pneumonia as well.  For example, people with higher levels of blood zinc have a 50% less chance of getting pneumonia [R].

Zinc for IBS and gut health

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often have zinc deficiency [R]. Too little zinc in the body is related to diarrhea, so this isn’t really a big surprise. 

Not only that, zinc deficiency makes the gut more susceptible to infections [R]. 

A specific type of zinc supplement called zinc carnosine is healing for the gut.  In fact, zinc carnosine helps to repair the gut lining.  It may even be helpful for healing stomach ulcers too [R]. 

Sexual benefits of zinc

Zinc helps the body make testosterone.

And zinc improves DNA function, in effect, keeping the reproductive system intact from a gene standpoint.

In certain populations, zinc deficiency is linked to erectile dysfunction [R].

Around 37% of healthy adult men may suffer from insufficient testosterone levels [R], even in aging athletes [R].

Further, zinc supplementation increases testosterone levels in healthy men as well [R].

Supporting the role of zinc for males and sexual health, low levels of zinc are related to the presence of gynecomastia, or breast growth, in boys going through puberty [R].

Ladies beware as well: testosterone is an important, although less researched, hormone for you as well.

In animal studies, zinc deficiency created imbalances in sex hormones for females [R].

If you are on estrogen replacement therapy or birth control, it significantly increases zinc losses in your body.

Taking zinc supplements

Zinc doses available in supplement form are widely variable. For most people, a multivitamin with minerals supplies a good amount of zinc. 

Keep in mind, that zinc is always best tolerated when taken with food, especially protein-rich foods.

However, high doses of zinc can cause nausea and taste changes [R]. Long-term high doses of zinc supplements also can interfere with your body’s copper status.

The dosing of zinc you should use is highly dependent on your diet status, and growth status, but also on diseases you may have and medications you may take.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. While The Healthy RD’s posts are backed by research, you are unique, so you must seek care from your own dietitian or healthcare provider. This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.

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