What causes zinc deficiency?

Zinc deficiency is caused by inadequate levels of zinc in the diet. Zinc is an important mineral required for a number of functions involving energy and metabolism. One of its most significant roles is in supporting the immune system, which protects us from pathogens, infections and disease. Zinc also plays a role in carbohydrate breakdown (which supplies energy), as well as in cell growth, division and reproduction.

It is harder for your body to obtain zinc from vegetable sources than from meat sources; therefore, some people with vegetarian diets may be deficient in zinc. Eating a balanced, healthy diet that incorporates foods high in zinc, including protein-rich foods, such as beans, red meat (beef and lamb), and peanuts, can help reduce your risk of zinc deficiency. If your diet is largely vegetarian, you may need to take zinc supplements.

What are the risk factors for zinc deficiency?

You may be at risk for zinc deficiency because of a number of factors. Not all people with risk factors will get zinc deficiency. Risk factors for zinc deficiency include:

  • Alcoholism
  • Chronic kidney disease (hemodialysis)
  • Intestinal malabsorption
  • Limited or no intake of animal protein
  • Living in a region without access to proper nutrition
  • Malnourishment

Reducing your risk of zinc deficiency

Fortunately, zinc deficiency is preventable. Your health care provider can advise you about steps you can take to reduce your risk, including providing guidelines for required daily zinc intake.

You may be able to lower your risk of zinc deficiency by:

  • Following the guidelines established by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board
  • Obtaining zinc from dietary sources, such as peanuts and beef or lamb
  • Taking zinc supplements if your diet does not provide sufficient zinc

INTRODUCTION

What is zinc deficiency?

Zinc is an important mineral required for a number of bodily functions involving energy and metabolism. One of its most important roles is in supporting our immune system, which protects us from pathogens, infections, and disease. Zinc also plays a role in carbohydrate breakdown (which supplies energy), as well as growth, division, and reproduction of our cells.

A healthy, balanc... Read more about zinc deficiencyintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency?

Zinc is essential for growth, cell division and reproduction, blood cell development, and the senses. As a result, if you are deficient in zinc, your symptoms can affect many of your bodily systems and functions.

Common symptoms of zinc deficiency

Common symptoms of zinc deficiency include:

TREATMENTS

How is zinc deficiency treated?

Zinc deficiency is treated by supplementation to restore amounts of zinc in your diet. This may include zinc supplements as well as increasing or introducing foods that are rich in zinc and following recommended dietary guidelines.

What you can do to improve your zinc deficiency

Zinc deficiency can be prevented by ensuring intake of the recommended amounts of zinc throu... Read more about zinc deficiencytreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: May 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System