Zinc is an important trace mineral that we need to stay healthy, but did you know that one out of 3 people may suffer from zinc deficiency without even realizing it? Read on to find out the signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency and what you can do to prevent or reverse zinc deficiency.
The Importance of Zinc
Zinc is an important trace mineral that is responsible for a number of different functions in our body and helps stimulate the activity of 100 different enzymes. This element is second only to iron in its concentration in the body.
Zinc is found in cells throughout the body and is needed for the body’s defensive (immune) system to properly work. Zinc also
Plays a role in cell division, cell growth, wound healing, and the breakdown of carbohydrates.
Our bodies need Zinc for the senses of smell and taste.
During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly.
Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t get enough of this crucial nutrient.
Zinc Deficiency is Common
Zinc deficiency is more common than you might imagine.
According to a report released by the World Health Organization, the global rate of zinc deficiency is around 31 percent.1
A study published in the June 2012 edition of the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology found that zinc deficiency may afflict as many as 2 billion people worldwide.2 These numbers indicate that issues with consuming enough zinc or absorbing zinc when consumed may be problematic for a third of the people around the globe.
Generally, when someone is suffering from a zinc deficiency, it is because the intake is inadequate, because it is being poorly absorbed into the body or their need for zinc increases.
Risk Factors for Developing Zinc Deficiency
Many factors can affect the body’s ability to process zinc. Here are some common things that can impact zinc absorption or contribute to zinc deficiency:
• Age—elderly are more prone for having zinc deficiency
• H pylori infection8 (Find out how to naturally treat H Pylori)
• Using zinc-depleting drugs, such as many birth control pills, blood pressure medications and antibiotics
• Pregnant and lactating women
• Sickle cell disease (a group of inherited red blood cell disorders)
Current Tests are Not Accurate
Plasma or serum zinc levels are the most commonly used indices for evaluating zinc deficiency, but these levels do not necessarily reflect cellular zinc status due to tight homeostatic control mechanisms (I’ve already mentioned this issue when it comes to detecting magnesium deficiency).
A person may suffer from zinc deficiency despite the absence of abnormal laboratory indices. In many cases, doctors consider risk factors (such as inadequate caloric intake, alcoholism, and digestive diseases) and symptoms of zinc deficiency (such as impaired growth in infants and children) when determining the need for zinc supplementation.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
A zinc deficiency can be identified by:
• Growth retardation
• Hair loss (nutritional deficiencies are one of the ten causes of hair loss)
• Delayed sexual maturation and impotence
• Loss of appetite
• Delayed healing of wounds
• Eye and skin lesions
• White spots on fingernails, transverse lines and poor nail growth or brittle nails
• Headaches and dizziness
• Bitter taste in mouth
• Zinc deficiency is common in people who have low lymphocyte count
Many of these symptoms are non-specific and often associated with other health conditions; therefore, a medical examination is necessary to ascertain whether a zinc deficiency is present.
Recommended Zinc Intake
The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for zinc is 8 milligrams per day for adult females and 11 milligrams per day for adult males.
The recommended intake for children 1-8 years old ranges from 3-5 milligrams, increasing as the child gets older.
Males 9-13 years old require 8 milligrams of zinc per day. After the age of 14, the requirement increases to the 11 milligrams per day that is required for all adult males.
For females over the age of 8, the requirement stays stable at 8 milligrams per day, except for ages 14-18, where the recommendation increases to 9 milligrams per day.
Pregnant and lactating women have an increased need for zinc at 11-13 milligrams per day, depending on age.
Sources of Zinc in Food
• Shellfish, beef, and other red meats are rich sources of zinc.
• Nuts and legumes are relatively good plant sources of zinc.
Zinc bioavailability (the fraction of zinc retained and used by the body) is relatively high in meat, eggs, and seafood because of the relative absence of compounds that inhibit zinc absorption and the presence of sulfur-containing amino acids (cysteine and methionine) that improve zinc absorption.
The zinc in whole-grain products and plant proteins is less bioavailable due to their relatively high content of phytic acid, a compound that inhibits zinc absorption. This is one of the reasons for soaking your nuts and seeds before eating them.
I’ve already written that pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are a good source of zinc. Here are other sources of zinc 5:
1. Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried,3 ounces 74 mg (493% DV)
2. Beef chuck roast, braised, 3 ounces 7 mg (47% DV)
3. Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces 6.5 mg (43% DV)
4. Beef patty, broiled, 3 ounces 5.3 mg (35% DV)
5. Lobster, cooked, 3 ounces 3.4 mg (23% DV)
6. Pork chop, loin, cooked, 3 ounces 2.9 mg (19% DV)
7. Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, ½ cup 2.9 mg ( 19% DV)
8. Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces 2.4 mg (16% DV)
9. Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces 1.7 mg (11% DV)
10. Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 1.6 mg (11% DV)
11. Chickpeas, cooked, ½ cup 1.3 mg (9% DV)
12. Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces 1.7 mg (11% DV)
13. Chickpeas, cooked, ½ cup 1.3 mg (9% DV)
14. Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce 1.2 mg (8% DV)
15. Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 0.9 mg (6% DV)
Other Nutritional Deficiencies
1. Five Essential Nutrients You May Be Missing From Your Diet
2. This Common Nutritional Deficiency Can Cause Migraine Headaches
3. Signs of Iron Deficiency
4. Common Diseases Caused by Vitamin D Deficiency