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What is Zinc Deficiency and What are its Symptoms?


What is Zinc Deficiency and What are its Symptoms?

Zinc is one of the essential minerals needed by the body, found naturally in some plant and animal foods. Minerals are inorganic elements that are necessary for the continuation of vital functions in the body. Approximately 4-6% of the human body consists of minerals. One of the most important features of minerals is that they cannot be produced by the body. In other words, in order to meet the body’s mineral needs, it is necessary to obtain them externally through foods and/or nutritional supplements. One of the essential minerals required for the body is zinc. Zinc deficiency occurs if there is not enough zinc taken with food or if there is a problem affecting the absorption of zinc in the body. “What is zinc, what are its benefits?” “How to understand zinc deficiency?” “What are the foods containing zinc?” “Who gets zinc deficiency?” Questions about the zinc mineral such as these are detailed in the rest of the article.

What is Zinc?

Zinc, which is the most abundant micronutrient in the human body after iron and constitutes approximately 4-6% of the total body weight (1-2.5 grams), is one of the micronutrients (required in small amounts) that has an important place in human nutrition. Zinc, which plays a role in the functioning of more than 300 enzymes, is needed for biochemical reactions in the body to occur. However, zinc should be taken in recommended doses. Otherwise, it may cause toxic effects such as nausea, vomiting and weakness. The absorption of zinc in the body occurs in the duodenum and jejunum parts of the small intestine. It is excreted from the body usually through sweat and urine, and sometimes through feces. Zinc deficiency or zinc excess may occur if there is a health problem such as digestive system problems that prevent the absorption and excretion of zinc from the body.

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What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency?

Zinc deficiency is a rare condition in people with a balanced and healthy diet under normal conditions. If the daily nutrition plan does not include enough zinc-containing foods and/or there is any health problem that affects the absorption of zinc in the body, a health problem called zinc deficiency may occur. In addition, zinc deficiency may also occur in breastfed babies whose mothers have zinc deficiency, those whose immune system is weak for any reason, or those who use any immunosuppressant medication. Especially in developing countries, zinc deficiency may be more common due to children not being properly nourished.

Since zinc plays an important role in many metabolic activities in the body, in case of severe zinc deficiency, some symptoms such as growth and development retardation, late puberty, skin problems and chronic diarrhea may be observed. The main symptoms of zinc deficiency can be listed as follows:

  • Skin problems such as delayed healing of wounds, baldness, dry skin, deformed nails,

  • Immune system problems such as hypersensitivity to allergens, frequent infections, increased risk of pneumonia,

  • Digestive system problems such as diarrhea, abdominal pain, decreased sense of taste,

  • Growth and development retardation,

  • lack of concentration,

  • Increased risk of dementia,

  • Psychological problems such as depression,

  • Weakness in bones,

  • Problems such as premature birth and low birth weight in case of zinc deficiency during pregnancy

In addition to those mentioned above, some studies show that people with zinc deficiency may also have problems in the reproductive system due to the imbalance of some hormones.

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What are the benefits of zinc?

In order for vital functions to continue in the human body, micronutrients such as zinc and iron are needed, as well as macronutrients such as protein, fat, carbohydrates, water and fiber. The main benefits of zinc can be listed as follows:

  • Takes part in acid base metabolism

  • It plays a role in DNA synthesis.

  • It plays a role in the metabolism of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, fat and protein.

  • It plays a role in the normal metabolism of vitamin A.

  • It is effective in preserving normal nails, hair, skin, bones and vision.

  • It is important for the immune system.

  • It takes part in cell division.

In addition to those listed above, many scientific studies on the benefits of zinc show that there is a relationship between colds and zinc. A scientific study shows that those taking 80-92 milligrams of zinc per day can reduce the duration of colds by 33%.

Foods Containing Zinc

Zinc is one of the minerals found naturally in many foods. The main foods containing zinc are as follows:

  • Meat and meat products such as salami and sausage,

  • Pumpkin seeds,

  • tahini,

  • Edible offal products such as liver,

  • Red meat and poultry,

  • Water and aquatic products such as mussels and shrimp,

  • Fish such as sardine, salmon, anchovy, garfish,

  • Grains and grain products such as oats, rye flour, wheat flour,

  • Animal foods such as milk and dairy products and eggs

In addition to the foods listed above, one of the best sources of zinc is water.

How much is the daily zinc requirement?

It is possible to meet the body’s daily zinc needs to a large extent with a balanced diet. Daily zinc needs may vary depending on special conditions such as age, gender and pregnancy. The daily zinc requirement for adult men is 11 mg and for women is 8 mg. For children aged 9-13, it is recommended to take 8 zinc daily. It is recommended for women during pregnancy and breastfeeding to consume 11-12 mg of zinc.

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Who Gets Zinc Deficiency?

Zinc deficiency is common, especially in developing countries, due to malnutrition. People who are at higher risk for zinc deficiency can be listed as follows:

  • Those with digestive system diseases such as Crohn’s disease,

  • Those who adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet,

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women,

  • Babies who are fed only breast milk while they need to switch to complementary food,

  • Sickle cell anemia patients,

  • Chronic kidney patients,

  • malnourished people,

Zinc Deficiency in Babies and Children

Zinc deficiency due to inadequate and unbalanced nutrition affects the majority of the population, especially infants and children. There are some studies showing an association between zinc deficiency and an increased risk of pneumonia in infants. Some studies show that approximately 450,000 children under the age of 5 die every year worldwide due to the weakening of the immune system due to zinc deficiency and the resulting infectious diseases. Zinc deficiency in babies and children may occur due to inadequate and unbalanced nutrition, and zinc deficiency may be more common in babies of mothers who are malnourished in zinc during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

What are the symptoms of zinc excess?

Zinc is one of the micronutrient elements necessary for the body. In other words, consuming a small amount is sufficient to meet the body’s needs. Just like zinc deficiency, zinc excess can cause some health problems. In case of excessive zinc intake or a problem with zinc excretion in the body, although rare, excess zinc may accumulate in the body and cause toxic effects. Symptoms of zinc excess can be listed as follows:

  • Nausea and vomiting,

  • Decreased desire to eat,

  • walking difficulty,

  • confusion of consciousness,

  • Abdominal and stomach pain

Home Zinc Test

Since zinc deficiency or excess can cause serious health problems, regular zinc testing can help prevent health problems before they occur. Nowadays, thanks to the widespread use of home health services, it is possible to have a zinc test at home.

For a healthy life, do not forget to make an appointment with a specialist doctor and have the necessary check-ups.


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