Zinc is an important trace mineral that we need to stay healthy, but did you know that one in 3 people can be deficient in zinc without 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 the second iron, due to its concentration in the body.
Zinc is found in cells throughout the body and is necessary for the body’s defense (immune) system to function properly. Zinc also:
- It 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, childhood, and the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly.
Unfortunately, many people do not get enough of this essential nutrient.
Zinc deficiency is common
Zinc deficiency is more common than you can imagine. According to a report published by the World Health Organization, the global rate of zinc deficiency is around 31 percent.
A study published in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology found that zinc deficiency can affect all 2 billion people worldwide. These numbers indicate that problems with the consumption or sufficient absorption of zinc when consumed, can be problematic in one third of the people worldwide.
Generally, when someone is suffering from a zinc deficiency, it is due to an inadequate intake, because it is being poorly absorbed in the body or because of their need to increase zinc.
Risk factors for zinc deficiency
Many factors can affect the body’s ability to process zinc. Here are some common things that can affect zinc absorption or contribute to zinc deficiency:
- Seniors are more likely to be zinc deficient
- H pylori infection
- Using zinc-reducing medications, such as many birth controls pills, blood pressure medications, and antibiotics
- Pregnant women and nursing mothers
- Sickle cell disease (a group of inherited red blood cell disorders)
Current tests for zinc are not exact
Plasma or serum zinc levels are the most commonly used indices to assess zinc deficiency, but these levels do not necessarily reflect cellular zinc status due to tight homeostatic control mechanisms.
A person can be deficient in zinc despite the absence of abnormal laboratory indices. In many cases, doctors consider risk factors (such as insufficient calorie intake, alcoholism, and digestive diseases) and symptoms of zinc deficiency (such as growth problems in infants and children) when determining the need for zinc supplements. zinc.
Warnings for zinc deficiency
- Growth retardation
- Hair loss (nutritional deficiencies are one of the ten causes of hair loss)
- Delayed sexual maturation and impotence
- Loss of appetite
- Delayed wound healing
- Eye and skin injuries
- White spots on the nails, cross lines and lack of nail growth or brittle nails
- Headaches and dizziness
Many of these symptoms are not specific and are often associated with other health conditions; therefore, a medical examination needs to determine whether a zinc deficiency is present.
Recommended zinc intake
The recommended daily allowance for zinc is 8 milligrams per day for adult women and 11 milligrams per day for adult men.
The recommended intake for children 1-8 years of age is in the ranges of 3-5 milligrams, increasing as the child grows.
Boys 9-13 years of age require 8 mg of zinc per day. After age 14, the requirement increases to the 11 milligrams per day required for all adult males.
For women over the age of 8, the requirement is 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 of 11-13 milligrams per day, depending on age.
Sources of zinc in food
- Seafood, beef, and other red meats are rich sources of zinc.
- Nuts and legumes are plants that are relatively good sources of zinc.
The bioavailability of zinc ( the fraction of zinc retained and used by the body) is relatively high in meat, eggs, fish, and shellfish 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 its relatively high content of phytic acid, a compound that inhibits zinc absorption. This is one of the reasons for soaking nuts and seeds before eating them.
Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are a good source of zinc. Here are other sources of zinc:
- Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces 74 mg (493% DV)
- Beef, roast, stew, 3 oz.7 mg (47% DV)
- Alaska Crab, cooked, 3 oz. 6.5 mg (43% DV)
- Beef Burger, Grilled, 3 oz 5.3 mg (35% DV)
- Cooked Lobster, 3 oz 3.4 mg (23% DV)
- Pork chop, tenderloin, cooked, 3 oz 2.9 mg (19% DV)
- Beans, cooked, canned, ½ cup 2.9 mg (19% DV)
- Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 oz 2.4 mg (16% DV)
- Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 oz 1.7 mg (11% DV)
- Cashews, dry roasted, 1 oz 1.6 mg (11% DV)
- Chickpeas, cooked, ½ cup 1.3 mg (9% DV)
- Cheese, Swiss, 1 oz 1.2 mg (8% DV)
- Almonds, dry roasted, 1 oz. 0.9 mg (6% DV)