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Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency can also have long-term health effects. For example, it can lead to stunted growth and delayed sexual development in children and increase the risk during pregnancy, such as preterm birth and low birth weight.

Everything you need to know about Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is an essential mineral required by the body for various functions, including growth and development, immune system function, and wound healing. Zinc is not produced naturally by the body, so Zinc must be obtained through diet or supplements.

When the body does not receive enough Zinc, a condition known as zinc deficiency can occur. Zinc deficiency is more common where diets are often low in Zinc. Still, it can also happen in developed countries, particularly in people with certain medical conditions that interfere with zinc absorption.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency can depend on the severity of the drought. Mild zinc deficiency may cause decreased appetite, fatigue, and impaired sense of taste or smell. More severe cases of zinc deficiency may cause more serious symptoms, such as delayed wound healing, hair loss, skin rash, and recurrent infections.

Zinc deficiency is diagnosed with a blood test that measures the level of Zinc in the blood. Treatment for zinc deficiency typically involves increasing zinc intake through dietary changes or supplements. Foods high in Zinc include oysters, beef, pork, chicken, beans, nuts, and whole grains.

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is a vital mineral that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. It is essential for healthy growth and development, wound healing, and a robust immune system. Zinc insufficiency is a condition with a lack of zinc in the body, and it can lead to various symptoms and health problems.

Loss of Appetite

One of the early symptoms of zinc insufficiency is a loss of appetite. This condition can make it difficult for individuals to consume the required amount of nutrients, leading to malnutrition and weight loss.

Impaired Immune Function and Slow Growth

Zinc is necessary to maintain a healthy immune system and promote growth and development. A zinc deficiency can lead to poor immune function, increasing the risk of infections and slowing the growth rate in children.

Related: 9 vitamin D deficiency symptoms (and 10 high vitamin D foods)

Diseases Caused by Zinc Insufficiency

In extreme cases, zinc insufficiency, can lead to severe health conditions such as:

Slow Wound Healing

Zinc plays a vital role in the healing process of wounds. A zinc deficiency can lead to delayed wound healing and cause infections and other complications.

Low Insulin Levels

Zinc is necessary for insulin production, storage, and secretion. It can lead to low insulin levels, leading to diabetes.

Mental Lethargy

Zinc is necessary for maintaining healthy brain function. A zinc deficiency can lead to mental lethargy, which can cause confusion, memory loss, and other cognitive problems.

Hypogonadism in Males

Zinc plays a critical role of the functioning of the male reproductive system. A zinc deficiency can lead to hypogonadism, a condition with reduced testosterone production.

Diarrhea

Zinc is necessary for maintaining the health of the digestive system. A zinc deficiency can lead to diarrhoea, which can cause dehydration and malnutrition.

Loss of Hair

Zinc is necessary for healthy hair growth. It can lead to hair loss and cause hair thinning.

Dry and Rough Skin

Zinc is necessary for maintaining healthy skin. A zinc deficiency can lead to dry and rough skin and cause other skin problems, such as rashes and lesions.

Skin Lesions

Zinc is necessary for the healing of skin wounds and the maintenance of healthy skin. A zinc deficiency can lead to the development of skin lesions and can cause other skin problems such as acne and psoriasis.

Weight Loss

Zinc is necessary for maintaining a healthy metabolism and appetite. A zinc deficiency can cause weight loss and other health problems such as malnutrition.

Impotence

Zinc is necessary for producing testosterone, essential for healthy sexual function. A zinc deficiency can lead to impotence and other sexual problems.

Impaired Sense of Taste or Smell

Zinc is necessary for maintaining healthy taste and smell. A zinc deficiency can lead to a poor sense of taste or smell, which can cause a loss of appetite and other health problems.

Diagnosis of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency is a common micronutrient deficiency affecting millions of people worldwide. it is essential for numerous biological processes, including DNA synthesis, protein synthesis, immune system function, wound healing, and growth and development. Zinc deficiency can lead to various health problems, including growth retardation, delayed wound healing, impaired immune function, and cognitive impairment.

Diagnosis of zinc deficiency can be challenging as there is no definitive test to determine zinc status in the body. However, several indicators can suggest a possible fault. Here are some standard methods for diagnosing zinc deficiency:

Clinical Symptoms

Clinical symptoms of zinc deficiency include impaired growth and development, delayed wound healing, skin rash, hair loss, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and a bad sense of taste or smell. These symptoms can help diagnose zinc deficiency, but they are not specific to this condition and may also be present in other health conditions.

Dietary Assessment

A diet low in zinc can increase the risk of zinc deficiency. Assessing the dietary intake of zinc can help diagnose zinc deficiency. Zinc-rich foods include meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. A diet low in these foods may suggest a deficiency.

Zinc Level Tests

Measuring serum zinc levels is common methods of assessing zinc status. However, serum zinc levels can be affected by many factors, including inflammation, stress, and other micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore, a low serum zinc level does not necessarily mean an individual is deficient in zinc. Another way to measure zinc levels is by analysing hair or nails, as these tissues contain high zinc levels. However, these tests are less reliable than serum zinc tests.

Zinc Challenge Test

A zinc challenge test is a diagnostic test used to evaluate the body’s response to zinc supplementation. The test involves administering a dose of zinc and then measuring the urinary excretion of zinc. If the body is deficient in zinc, the urinary excretion of zinc will be low. However, this test is not widely used in clinical practice.

Who is at the risk of this deficiency?

Here is a table outlining key groups at risk of zinc deficiency along with more details:

At-Risk Group Details
Alcoholics

– Poor dietary intake;

– Increased urinary zinc excretion due to alcohol;

– Up to 50% of alcoholics have zinc deficiency

Exclusively Breastfed Infants (over 7 months)

– Breastmilk contains ~0.5mg zinc per liter;

– Not enough to meet needs if no supplementation after 6 months;

Vegetarians

– Plant foods contain zinc but less bioavailable; 

-Phytates & fibers in plants inhibit zinc absorption;

Individuals with Sickle Cell Disease

– Increased zinc loss through urine;

– Linked to growth delay & impaired immunity;

Pregnant & Breastfeeding Women

– Increased demand during pregnancy as baby stores zinc; 

– Low maternal zinc correlates to low birth weight;

Gastrointestinal Disorders

– Malabsorption conditions prevent proper zinc absorption; 

– e.g. Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, short bowel syndrome;

Older Adults

– Reduced intake of zinc-rich foods;

– Age-related changes may reduce absorption;

Monitoring zinc nutritional status is important for at-risk groups to ensure adequate intake to meet needs.

Prevention and Treatment of Zinc Deficiency

To prevent zinc insufficiency, individuals at increased risk should eat a healthy diet that includes zinc-rich foods. Supplements may be necessary in some cases, such as for older adults who may have difficulty absorbing zinc from food.

Interesting Facts about Zinc Insufficiency

  1. Phytic acids, found in high amounts in whole grains, can reduce zinc absorption.
  2. Oral zinc administration may help reduce vision loss in individuals with macular or drusen degeneration.
  3. Celiac disease may lead to zinc deficiencies.
  4. Female gymnasts may be at increased risk of zinc insufficiency compared to male gymnasts.
  5. Zinc deficiencies in monkeys can lead to soft bones, a condition similar to rickets in humans.
  6. Oysters contain the highest zinc content of any food item.
  7. Zinc is necessary for the normal development of the eye in juvenile Chinook salmon.

Zinc for Skin Health and Psoriasis Treatment

It is involved in many vital functions in the body, including the production of DNA, the healing of wounds, the regulation of the immune system, and the maintenance of healthy skin. Zinc is also critical for good skin health because of its antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, tiny chemical particles that turn food into energy. However, when these free radicals get out of control, they can attack the body, damage our cells, and possibly cause premature ageing, heart disease, and skin diseases. Consequently, it is essential to have a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, E, and zinc to keep the free radicals under control.

How Do You Become Zinc Deficient?

Zinc deficiency is an affliction of modern times when our diet and lifestyles have changed dramatically. Unfortunately, lower levels of zinc are now found in the soil, which lowers the stories in our food. Our highly processed, refined foods and over-consumption of sugar and carbohydrates all contribute to decreasing zinc levels in our diet. Vegetarians, especially, can be at risk of zinc deficiency because the primary source of zinc is meat. Our zinc levels can be depleted not only by diet but also by increased stress levels.

How Do You Know When You Have a Zinc Deficiency?

The signs of zinc deficiency vary from person to person. However, there are a few common symptoms to look out for. These include dandruff, poor wound healing, sleep disturbances, diarrhoea, hair loss, loss of libido, skin dryness, rashes, and reduced fertility. If you have psoriasis and complain of any other suspected symptoms, you could suffer from a zinc deficiency. To find out whether you are zinc deficient or not, it is essential to consult your doctor or nutritionist.

What Has Research Been Done on Zinc?

A recent study showed that using zinc sulphate cream was effective in treating psoriasis and induced a complete remission in a high percentage of cases. Another study showed that topical zinc pyrithione (an active ingredient in major anti-dandruff shampoos) was highly effective in treating psoriasis. Even though there has not been much research, the completed studies have concluded that zinc can help psoriasis.

How Do You Treat a Zinc Deficiency?

First, are you eating a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white rice, pasta, bread, cakes, and cookies? If the answer is yes, you need to consider alternative options such as wholemeal bread, brown rice, and avoiding sugary foods. Great sources of zinc are oysters, pork, chicken, beef, lamb, chickpeas, baked beans, pumpkin seeds, and cheese.

Unfortunately, even if you take a high level of zinc, only a tiny percentage gets absorbed by your body, especially from non-meat sources. If you have psoriasis and especially if you are a vegetarian, then it would be worth taking a zinc supplement.

Treating Psoriasis with Zinc

Apart from changing your diet and adding supplements, there are other ways of taking zinc to treat your psoriasis. One way is to use creams containing zinc, for example, DermaZinc Cream. DermaZinc effectively treats the red, flaky, itchy, and scaly skin associated with mild to moderate psoriasis. Another product that has been clinically proven and FDA-approved is the Skin Zinc system which consists of a cream and a spray.

Selina

My name is Selina, a medical specialist blogger helping people access treatment for 5+ years. Although blogging awhile, only recently deeply engaged. This past year my most productive, providing hospital reviews and info on symptoms, diagnoses and diseases. Also offer guidelines to help readers navigate healthcare. Goal to continue increased content pace to assist many. Aim to facilitate treatment and empower advocacy through writing.

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