Epilepsy Talk

Zinc Can Help You Think! | April 4, 2018

Zinc should be part of any balanced diet, but it also regulates signals in your brain.

It’s been found to play a critical role in coordinating communication between cells in the brain, possibly governing the formation of memories and controlling the occurrence of epileptic seizures.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center, published the results of a collaboration with a Massachusetts Institution of Technology research study which found that zinc plays a key role in signal transmission between neurons in the hippocamus — a zinc enriched region of the brain responsible for learning and memory — and where disrupted communication may contribute to epilepsy.

The findings were published online in the journal Neuron.

“We discovered that zinc is essential to control the efficiency of communication between two critical populations of nerve cells in the hippocampus,” said James McNamara, M.D., senior author and chair of the Department of Neurobiology at Duke. “This addresses a longstanding controversy in the field.” 

“The connection is a very fundamental finding from a clinical treatment point of view,” said Enhui Pan, co-author and assistant research professor in McNamara’s laboratory. 

“The finding could make some people think — now they’ll really have a direct application for epilepsy treatment.”

But balance is essential.

Because, while zinc is critical to communication, over-communication by the brain cells highlighted in the study, was known to occur in epilepsy, pointing to a link between zinc and the condition. 

And when too much zinc accumulates, cells may become dysfunctional or die.

So, how much zinc should you take?

McNamara noted that zinc supplements are commonly sold over the counter to treat several different brain disorders, including depression.

It isn’t clear whether these supplements modify zinc content in the brain, or modify the efficiency of communication between these nerve cells.

He emphasized that people taking zinc supplements should be cautious, pending needed information on the desired zinc concentrations and how oral supplements affect them.

The best sources of zinc from our diet are found in seafood such as oysters and crabmeat, red meat, poultry, baked beans, pecans, milk and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

But, McNamara noted that altering zinc levels in an individual’s diet is unlikely to effectively combat neurological illness.

The diets of the vast majority of Americans are likely to contain reasonable amounts of zinc,” McNamara said. 

“But I think it’s possible that the way the brain handles zinc may somehow be defective, even if you got normal amounts in your diet.”

The USDA recommended daily allowance, or RDA, varies based on age, gender and other considerations.

The zinc RDA for adults 19 years of age and older is 11 mg for males and 8 mg for females, 11 mg for pregnant women and 12 mg for lactating women.

However, since zinc medication can affect zinc assimilation, for your recommended dose, it would be best to consult with your doctor.

In closing, McNamara said, “We want to drill down further and understand the various molecular events by which zinc enhances the efficiency of communication between neurons.

We want to understand exactly how zinc does this.”

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  1. Another thought provoking article Phylis! What I love about science is that it is always being updated which often leads to a complete reversal of the earlier conclusions. In 1990 for example it was thought by some that Zinc reduced seizure activity and yet by 2016 it was thought by some that Zinc provoked seizures, see for example:


    I have read that chelated Zinc has been used in the treatment of damaged optic nerves (and also to limit the duration of flu symptoms?) Zinc is clearly a vital trace element. However, the usual “Zinc tablets” which contain Zinc Oxide or simple Zinc salts are of little use to an undamaged brain because the Zinc ions can’t cross the undamaged blood brain barrier. Zinc Chelate it is I guess? (subject to your Medical professional’s recommendation that is.)

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — April 4, 2018 @ 11:10 AM

  2. Alas, I am not a medical professional, but just a writer devoted to epilepsy and its research.

    Had I been a medical professional, I would have passed along your vital suggestion of Zinc Chelate.

    Thanks for the advice. You’re a gem!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 4, 2018 @ 11:16 AM

    • You are the only person I study who has an unbias and open view on epilepsy that narrates and promotes the condition . I have studied neurology and cognitive function for many years after living with a condition for 45 years I. appreciate, admire and take on board everthing you say Feiner and admire your dedication to the condition .. keep up the good work.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Chris Lockwood — March 20, 2022 @ 4:31 AM

  3. For the years since the 1970’s when I knew that Zinc helped with getting rid of colds & swollen glands from sore throats, I saw myself the reduction of the petit mal seizures I could have had at any time especially when I had a cold or with swollen glands. IODINE too helps the immune system like Zinc does, and with VITAMIN C they all work good together. GARDEN OF LIFE is a supplement worth using. So it’s no surprise what ZINC can do, as everyone in the medical world will never tell you how good it is, especially the drug industries. Just be very ALERT when any STEARATE is added into any drug, like MAGNESIUM as it does not work so good, in fact it works against the immune system, but a good MAGNESIUM will not do that. STEARATES can be with anything that BIG PHARMA wants to use it with. They also will cause MORE seizures, as I learned from taking DILANTIN & KNEW it was the cause for over 70% of all seizures I had from ages of 5 to 27 years old. Once DILANTIN was out of my body, I had a 90% reduction of all petit mal seizures, & that is a REALITY & TRUTH about what DILANTIN can do when doctors and parents will not listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by C D — April 4, 2018 @ 11:36 AM

    • Thanks for the tip about Garden of life.

      Dilantin also did me no favors. I was a walking zombie, until I went into a coma. (No blood level tests in those days.)

      My long hair fell out to the extent that I had to have it cut short.

      I got galloping gum rot and still see a dentist 4 times a years. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 4, 2018 @ 11:44 AM

      • And I was wondering why I keep having endless petite mal seizures, confussions, disorientation & disruptive short term memories, while I keep taking Dilantin to stop or reduce my grandmal seizures.
        Thank you for your enlightening information, now I can see where my troubles are coming from.
        It’s time to discuss with my Neurologist on what’s going on with his Dilantin prescriptions & my petite mal seizures.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by BahreNegash Eritrea — April 4, 2018 @ 4:42 PM

      • All I can say is that Dilantin did me more harm than good.

        But that’s me and my individual chemistry.

        Other people fare better. (But perhaps not you!)

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 4, 2018 @ 5:28 PM

    • I am allergic to Magnesium Sterate (a common inactive ingredient in OTC and prescription drugs). I can’t take pill forms of medications because of it, along with Cornstarch, Food Dyes, and Sorbitol.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by trekkie80sgirl — April 12, 2018 @ 1:48 AM

  4. I have zinc rice Chelate in my whole food supplements from my Functional Medicine aunt. At least 2 supplements contain it(Neuroplex and Trace Minerals-B12 by Standard Process). Been taking the supplements for years.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by trekkie80sgirl — April 12, 2018 @ 1:52 AM

  5. Interesting. I thought I had heard in the past to not take zinc as it might contribute to more seizures, so the different things you read can make it confusing. But, I’m glad to hear that it may be a help rather than a hindrance, as it appears to be so good for immune function and libido.

    Perhaps I wont feel nervous about adding a chelated zinc supplement to my routine.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Doug — June 15, 2018 @ 2:44 PM

    • Yes, zinc is often under rated, but as you can see, it’s very good to include as part of your diet, or as a supplement.


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 16, 2018 @ 11:34 AM

  6. If you do a search ZINC IS GOOD FOR YOU you get a great list of supposed benefits but if you do a search ZINC IS BAD FOR YOU of course you get a list of the dangers of Zinc!

    In my lifetime Zinc has gone from supposedly being good for treating colds to being bad ( and the same is true for its role in treating an impaired sense of taste.)


    Zinc’s relation to epilepsy varies from helpful to irrelevant to harmful depending upon which publication you read.

    see for example-

    On line data demonstrates that Zinc can pass through the blood-brain barrier at certain sites and indeed Zinc is essential for blood brain barrier functioning.

    Zinc as a trace element it is vital both for us and for sheep for example.

    It may be that believing that Zinc supplementation helps control epilepsy results in a beneficial placebo effect for some people? Personally I prefer to rely upon peer reviewed double blind clinical trials … but perhaps I am loosing out on placebo benefits as a result?!

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Michael H — June 15, 2018 @ 6:36 PM

    • I’m not sure about the placebo effect, but I know that from the research I did, zinc has many beneficial properties.

      As you said, I guess it’s the source of your research!


      Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 16, 2018 @ 11:38 AM

      • You are of course quite right Phyllis that Zinc as a trace element “… has many beneficial properties” notably to the body’s immune system and to our brains. I hope I did not give the impression that I (wrongly) believe that Zinc ONLY has a placebo effect.

        However, the RDA for Zinc for most people is less than 10 mg daily which would be provided from say four ounces of beef, beans, or crab. Pork, nuts,lobster and even peas are apparently also useful sources of dietary Zinc.

        However, poor people especially might have zinc deficiency from an inadequate diet. And, I have read that vegetarians have an RDA higher by 50% because zinc from plant sources has a lower bioavailability than Zinc from animal sources.

        IMO The problem with “supplements” in general (not just trace elements such as Zinc) is twofold, first that the bioavailability is not usually known so even though you swallow “enough” you can’t know if it will be absorbed into the body (should we use Zinc oxide, acetate, gluconate or lactate?), and second it is so easy to take pills that it is easy to overdose and end up with unpleasant side effects.

        Thank you for your thought provoking article Phylis.

        Liked by 1 person

        Comment by Michael H — June 16, 2018 @ 3:39 PM

      • I agree whole heartedly.

        Especially since I’m not a meat eater — I can only eat chicken and fish.

        Which throws into question, how much is enough?

        How much is too much — from an unbiased point of view.

        (That’s where my personal concerns come in!)


        Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 16, 2018 @ 3:56 PM

  7. I have had seizures since I was a teenager and the one medication that worked in controlling my seizures was dilantin and i took it probably way too long about 25 to 30 years….although it controlled my seizures it jacked me up mentally but with the help of my doctor im completely off my medication and seizure free….but one thing i have found very helpful is lions mane mushroom which helps repair damage to the brain and tumeric is very good for the brain as well…..i really appreciate this article because i never knew that there could be a link between seizures and zinc..ive always wondered what the cause of my seizures were since no one in my family has seizures…..im going to do further research into this link….very intetesting

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Robin Mulkey — December 2, 2018 @ 5:37 PM

  8. Seems like all is in favor of using ZINC as I know it helped me more in my younger years before age 35, when the seizure pattern changed for me. I do not OD more with ZINC now as I am wondering if older people need MORE ZINC than the RNA claims we need ? DILANTIN was never the perfect drug for me, as when I had ZINC then when I took that drug, I do remember having LESS seizures, than on those days or weeks that I did not have that zinc to take. Now I am using it daily & the GARDEN OF LIFE is a good brand to take.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James Davis — February 12, 2019 @ 5:01 PM

  9. Thanks for recounting your own experiences and the tip on the brand name of zinc that you take!


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — February 12, 2019 @ 5:19 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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