Zinc Deficiency Signs and Symptoms.

The first hint that zinc is an important nutrient came almost a century ago in Egypt, when doctors notices young, poor boys who ate almost nothing but unleavened bread were very short and underdeveloped. It turned out that their diet had enough zinc, but they couldn't absorb it because their diet was high in phytates, a substance found in high-fiber grain foods that blocks the uptake of zinc. After they got more variety in their diet, they started growing normally again.

Despite the fact that zinc is so necessary, there are no true storage depots for this mineral. Although relatively large amounts are found in the bone, along with other minerals, it does not appear that this zinc is readily available to the body. Instead, the body is dependent upon a continual external supply, as the relatively small body pool biologically available zinc appears to be used rather rapidly.

Therefore, deficiency signs tend to appear quite soon after depletion. It is now recognized that sub-clinical zinc deficiency may manifest itself as impaired ability to heal, impaired acuity of taste and smell, loss of appetite, and impaired night vision.

Pro-longed zinc deficiency may result in failure to grow, mental disturbances, lethargy, skin changes, and susceptibility to frequent infections.

Testicular function may also be adversely affected. This is probably the origin of the oyster's reputation as an aphrodisiac, as oysters have a high zinc content.

The RDI for zinc is 15 milligrams for all men and women. In spite of its importance and seemingly wide availability in food, evidence indicates that many people do not get enough zinc from their diets. Marginally low intakes are common in large areas of the country because the soil is deficient in this mineral. (In fact, at one time, many farm animals were found to be deficient in this mineral, and they now receive zinc-enriched feed.)

Indeed, zinc is used, both orally and topically, in the treatment of many skin conditions, including folliculitis (inflammation of the hair follicles); acrodermatitis enteropathica (a severe genetic skin disorder); acne vulgaris (common adolescent acne); alopecia areata (a usually temporary form of hair loss); and leg ulcers.

Certain individuals are unable to absorb zinc, or absorb the mineral only poorly, and thus are at risk for zinc deficiency. These include babies with the hereditary disease acrodermatitis enteropathica, mentioned above; as well as people with malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and short bowel syndrome. Also at risk are people with chronic kidney disease, sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, pancreatic insufficiency, and other chronically debilitating disorders. These individuals may have subtle signs of zinc deficiency, including loss of appetite, impaired night vision, and depressed immune and mental functions. In one study, patients with highly active Chrohn's disease had only 60 percent of the normal blood level of zinc.

Several drugs have been found to interfere with zinc absorption and metabolism. These include such commonly used substances as alcohol, diuretics, and oral contraceptives.

The dip of zinc levels associated with the use of oral contraceptives is probably the result of the drugs' hormone content, as zinc levels are also lower during pregnancy. In addition, the use of oral contraceptives been found to reduce folic acid levels in some women, and so often leads to folic acid supplementation. Unfortunately, in large doses, folic acid has been found to lower zinc concentrations in the blood, which may make these women particularly prone to zinc deficiency.

Research on the use of diuretics for hypertension suggests that some unexplained side effects of the drugs may be the result of zinc depletion, rather than the drugs themselves. Impotency, for example, appears to be connected to low zinc levels. The association of diuretic therapy with zinc deficiency may have important implications for patients who suffer heart attacks, as the deficiency may retard the healing of the injured heart.

The water you drink may also affect zinc levels. Excessive copper intake, commonly resulting from copper pipes, worsens an already existing zinc deficiency. In addition, there is some evidence that the calcium bicarbonate found in hard tap water may interfere with zinc absorption and utilization.

Read This Great Article about Zinc Deficiency from Science Daily

From Zinc Deficiency to Home page