Zinc orotate is a mineral salt that is normally found in the body in small amounts. Each molecule of zinc orotate consists
of two molecules of orotic acid and one zinc atom — the zinc atom replaces a pair of hydrogen atoms (one from each orotic
Zinc is an essential element required by all living things. Every organ and tissue in the body contains and requires zinc.
It plays roles in development, tissue growth, and in all major bodily functions. Several thousand kinds of proteins in the
body contain zinc — some of these proteins are enzymes that use zinc atoms to catalyze biochemical reactions, others have
structural roles. ‘Zinc finger’ proteins regulate gene expression, and zinc atoms play a role in gene-directed cell death
(‘apoptosis’) which is a major regulatory process in growth and development, and in cancer and other diseases. Zinc also affects
the way cells signal each other — it has been found to influence hormone release and the transmission of information along
Zinc’s antioxidant properties help to explain some of its effects on the body: protecting the skin from UV light, improving
wound healing, and decreasing the relative risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Zinc is an essential component of the
enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) — one of the major antioxidant tools the body uses to neutralize destructive oxygen ions.
The officially recommended intake of zinc for adult humans is 8 to 11 mg/day. Zinc deficiencies occur, even in industrialized countries, as the result of various illnesses and bizarre diets. Symptoms
of severe zinc deficiency include: hair loss, skin rashes, diarrhea, impaired immunity and wound healing, night blindness
and other visual impairment, loss of smell, taste and memory, wasting of body tissues, behavioral disturbances, and death.
Orotate (orotic acid) is a biochemical substance made by all living cells. It is a necessary raw material for making the genetic
material: RNA and DNA.
What we can’t tell you
In the U.S. and some other industrialized countries, government agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have adopted
censorship as a method for intensifying their control over supplement users and their suppliers. Thus, FDA regulations prohibit
us from telling you that any of our products are effective as medical treatments, even if they are, in fact, effective.
Accordingly, we will limit our discussion of zinc orotate to a brief summary of relevant research, and let you draw your own
conclusions about what medical conditions it may be effective in treating.
Zinc orotate was popularized as a supplement by Dr. Hans Nieper, the innovative German physician, who used it to treat or prevent the following conditions:
- Hodgkin and non-Hogkin lymphomas
Nieper considered orotates to be superior to carbonates, chlorides, sulfates, and other anions as bioavailability enhancers
for minerals like zinc.
Hans Nieper was a controversial figure whose treatments were denounced by many in the medical profession and were targeted
by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — despite the fact that these critics had done essentially no investigation of these
treatments, and despite the fact that countless thousands of Nieper’s patients and followers found the treatments to be superbly
effective. Nieper died in 1998, but his influence lives on.
Other researchers have also studied some of the medical applications of zinc ororate and of its components: zinc and ‘orotate’ (orotic acid). Let’s look briefly at these applications.
Researchers at the University of Pécs have described a ‘passive antitumor defense system’ (PADS) that seems to operate outside
of the immune system’s defenses against cancer. One of the components of PADS is orotate.
Cancer radiation therapy typically has deleterious effects, not only on the areas of the body that are treated with it, but
upon the red and white cells of the blood. Anemia and impaired immunity are expected during and after radiation therapy. Zinc
orotate and several other zinc salts reduce these bad side effects on the blood. This kind of zinc supplementation appears
to be a very cost-effective way to lower the toxicity of these drastic cancer treatments.
Heavy alcohol consumption
Organic zinc salts, such as zinc orotate, were shown in experiments with mice to protect the liver from the lethality of a
large dose of ethyl alcohol. The protective effect is thought to involve the neutralization of free radicals in the liver
tissues injured by alcohol. Alcohol lovers might therefore benefit from regular supplementation with zinc orotate.
Although a number of factors are known to be involved, cardiovascular disease is increasingly being viewed as basically an
inflammatory condition in which oxygen ions damage arteries and veins. The principal free radical so implicated is superoxide. Superoxide levels are increased in blood vessels in many pathophysiological conditions including hypertension, atherosclerosis,
hyperhomocysteinemia, heart failure, subarachnoid hemorrhage — in addition to many non-cardiovascular ailments such as diabetes,
sepsis, Alzheimer’s disease, and aging.
Methods for ‘mopping up’ superoxide molecules as quickly as possible are therefore good candidates for preventing cardiovascular
disesase. Zinc is useful in this regard because of the role it plays in the superoxide dismutase (SOD) enzyme. Clinical evidence
for this concept has been provided by 2006 study of African-Americans in which zinc deficiencies were been found to be associated
with heart failure.
Orotate, too, has shown benefit as a treatment and prevention for cardiovascular disease because
- Orotate improves the energy status of injured heart tissue;
- Orotate limits damage to heart from interrupted blood flow;
- Orotate improves HDL/LDL ratio and decreases plaque formation;
- Orotate slows heart degeneration and prevents congestive heart failure.
Two viruses, HSV-1 or HSV-2, can cause Herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections of the skin. Such infections are characterized
by painful, burning, or itchy clusters of vesicles on the lips, oral mucous membranes, genital region, or elsewhere. HSV infection
of the eye results in keratoconjunctivitis, a condition that can damage the cornea and cause blindness. HSV may also cause encephalitis or other systemic infections.
There is evidence that zinc may be useful for treating active Herpes simplex lesions or preventing recurrences. In clinical studies, patients given oral zinc supplements saw an average of 57% fewer
days in which they experienced Herpes lesions. The dosage used was 139 mg/day of zinc sulfate, which would correspond to 316
mg/day of zinc orotate; but a smaller dose should be used since the orotate provides enhanced zinc bioavailability.
Diabetes causes a significant systemic oxidative stress and is often accompanied by zinc deficiency that increases the susceptibility
of the heart to oxidative damage. Therefore, there is a strong rationale to consider the strategy of zinc supplementation
to prevent or delay diabetic cardiomyopathy.
A study in 2003 in Tunisia showed that ‘oxidative stress’ was increased in patients with diabetes, but that six months of
zinc supplementation lowered this stress by 15%.
Inflammation, immunity, and aging
Zinc deficiency is constantly observed in chronic inflammation due to disease, injury or aging. Yet zinc is an anti-inflammatory agent. Here we have a vicious circle: chronic inflammation depletes zinc; a shortage of zinc allows the inflammation to increase.
The logical way out of this vicious circle would be zinc supplementation.
Zinc and vitamin C play important roles in immune function and in the modulation of resistance to infectious agents. They
each reduce the risk, severity, and duration of infectious diseases. Adequate intakes of zinc and vitamin C ameliorate symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold, pneumonia, and other
respiratory tract infections. Furthermore, these substances reduce the incidence and improve the outcome of malaria and diarrhea
Osteoporosis, bones, joints
Although the mechanism is unclear, it is known that zinc deficiency plays a role in causing osteoporosis. Zinc replacement by dietary zinc supplementation would therefore make sense as a prevention or treatment for osteoporosis.
Cartilage in the joints is depend critically upon the regular provision of glucose, amino acids, vitamins (particularly vitamin
C), and essential trace elements (zinc, magnesium, and copper). According to a research group at the University of Liverpool,
“… dietary supplementation programs and nutraceuticals used in conjunction with non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
may offer significant benefits to patients with joint disorders, such as OA [osteoarthritis] …”
Zinc deficiency plays a role in the development of liver diseases — including Alcoholic Liver Disease — and zinc supplementation
is considered to be helpful for patients with such diseases.
Zinc has a mitigating effect on lead toxicity. The toxicity of lead is thought to stem from its ability to deplete the body’s
supply of the antioxidant enzyme Superoxide Dismutase (SOD). Experiments with lead-exposed rats have shown that zinc supplementation
restores SOD to normal levels.
Testosterone and male fertility
Studies have shown that zinc, vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium promote testosterone synthesis and increase sperm production.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease of the retina that leads to severe visual loss and legal blindness in
the elderly. Preventive measures include supplementation with antioxidants such as zinc, vitamins C and E, as well as lutein
and zeaxanthin — two antioxidants specifically found in the retina.
A large clinical trial (AREDS in the USA) found a beneficial effect of zinc, beta-carotene, and vitamin C supplements on the
progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration.
Approximately 10% of the total zinc in the brain appears to serve as a modulator of information transfer between nerve cells.
Dietary zinc deprivation affects zinc levels in the brain. In the hippocampus, the main controller of memory storage, zinc
deprivation causes learning impairment and olfactory dysfunction. The brain’s susceptibility to epileptic seizures is also
increased by zinc deficiency, and so is its tendency to be damaged by such excitatory substances as glutamate.
Are zinc orotate supplements useful for the conditions and purposes mentioned above? We aren’t allowed to tell you, so you
should take a look at some of the references cited here, and then decide for yourself.
For a good introductory discussion of mineral salts and other related mineral transporters, see the review Mineral chelates, salts and colloids by Alvin Hashimoto. For an explanation of possible mechanisms through which orotates operate in the body, see the article How orotates work: The biochemistry of ‘vitamin B13’ by Ed Sharpe.