Zinc deficiency–Sources, diagnosis and importance

If you want to improve your immunity you might like to add some zinc to your diet. 

zinc deficiencyzinc deficiencyZinc is an important element needed for our health and well-being. Zinc strengthens our immunity, speeds wound healing, helps maintain good skin and hair and is essential for our metabolism. Most of the zinc in our bodies is in the muscles and bones. A zinc deficiency is a global health problem and as the symptoms overlap other medical conditions it is not easily diagnosed and treated. For person’s who cannot eat a well-balanced diet or are vegans or vegetarians, a zinc deficiency may be a likely culprit for their health issues.

Sources of zinc

Raw oysters have the highest content of zinc followed by meat like beef and chicken, fish, legumes and nuts.

Importance of zinc

  1. Improves immunity – A high dose of zinc speeds up recovery from infections and helps the white blood cells that stave off infection.
  2. Essential for men’s health – Zinc is important for sperm health and hence plays an important part in reproduction as it is found in the testes and prostate gland. Lack of zinc may prevent conception as the weak sperm may not be able to fertilise the egg. Lack of zinc affects sperm motility, quality and sperm count.
  3. For brittle nails and hair – Zinc helps prevent hair loss and strengthens nails. It is essential for the health of the skin and acne and stretch marks not due to pregnancy or weight fluctuation can be blamed on zinc deficiency. It is also important in those with skin allergies.
  4. Lack of zinc may cause body odour and feet to stink.
  5. Zinc is a great antioxidant; it counters the oxidative damage suffered by cells due to metabolic processes.
  6. A zinc deficiency can lead to serious diarrhoea which can become chronic and cause mal-absorption and even anaemia.
  7. Zinc plays an important role in eye health and poor vision at night may be due to a paucity of zinc in the body.
  8. Lack of zinc can lead to agitation, mood swings and irritability and is regularly prescribed to psychiatric patients who may lack zinc.

 How is a zinc deficiency diagnosed?

A simple blood test can be done but it gives variable results so is not very dependable.

A simple mouth test – A solution containing zinc is given to the patient and he is asked to swish it around in the mouth. Persons who have adequate zinc will get a metallic taste in the mouth immediately while those with a deficiency may not get any adverse taste or the metallic taste may be a delayed sensation.

Zinc as a cure for cold?

For zinc to be effective in controlling symptoms of a common cold, it must be started at least twenty four hours after the onset of the cold. However it is not certain whether zinc really helps cure a cold as the studies have conflicting results.

How much zinc should you take?

Children need from 3-8 mg while men need about 11mg/day. Women need about 8-10mg/day while breastfeeding and pregnant women need slightly more than this.

Zinc supplements should be taken with a doctor’s approval as too much zinc can be bad for the liver and will cause its own problems.

Photographs by sxc.hu

Written by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician 

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Zinc deficiency – Sources, diagnosis and importance is a post from: mDhil

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