HealthZinc deficiency: Who's at risk, how it manifests, and ways to prevent it

Zinc deficiency: Who's at risk, how it manifests, and ways to prevent it

Is it worth supplementing with zinc?
Is it worth supplementing with zinc?
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8:22 AM EST, December 21, 2023

Zinc deficiency is not typically found among healthy individuals who maintain a balanced diet rich in various nutrients. However, there are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to this deficiency.

These include:

  • people with nutrient absorption disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease,
  • older individuals, who's natural ability to absorb zinc may be diminished,
  • people on restrictive vegetarian or vegan diets and those consuming excessive amounts of oxalates and phytates,
  • individuals with chronic liver and kidney diseases,
  • people coping with sickle cell anemia,
  • and individuals with alcohol abuse issues.

Note that habitual alcohol consumption can lead to harmful health effects, including potential zinc deficiency.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency

Dependent on the severity and duration of the deficiency, zinc deficiency may present in a few different ways.

Typical symptoms include:

  • growth and development issues in children,
  • decreased immunity, increasing susceptibility to infections,
  • difficulty in wound healing,
  • loss of appetite, diarrhea,
  • sensory disorders (e.g., loss of taste and smell, vision deterioration),
  • skin issues (such as acne, eczema, hair loss),
  • inflammation in the oral cavity,
  • and mood changes.

Diagnosis and treatment

Zinc deficiency is diagnosed through observation of clinical symptoms and blood serum zinc level tests. Treatment primarily involves zinc supplementation under a doctor's supervision, and dietary adjustments.

If a zinc deficiency is diagnosed and treated promptly and efficiently, it typically does not result in permanent complications. Nevertheless, long-term deficiency can lead to significant health issues like impaired cognitive function, growth and sexual maturation disorders in children, and chronic skin and immune problems.

Preventing zinc deficiency

Consuming a varied diet that includes foods rich in zinc - such as meat, fish, seeds, nuts, and whole-grain products - can help prevent zinc deficiency.

In cases with an increased risk of deficiency, like restrictive diets or certain chronic diseases, it may be prudent to consider zinc supplementation under a doctor's supervision.

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