Zinc is a trace element that is vital to the body for several reasons. Although zinc is found in many food products, not all sources may be adequate. Those that do not get sufficient amounts of zinc in the diet will not only suffer from symptoms of zinc deficiency, but may suffer from health problems as a result. These issues sometimes include problems with physical and cognitive development, which can be noted especially among children. However, serious health conditions can arise in patients with zinc deficiency regardless of age or current health.
Recommended Zinc Values
Symptoms of zinc deficiency will most likely surface when the individual is not getting the recommended daily values of this element. Recommendations vary from two to thirteen milligrams a day. However, these values are based on the age, sex, and whether or not the individual is pregnant or breastfeeding. Adolescents and those eighteen or under that are pregnant or breastfeeding require the most zinc in their diet. When these values are not met on a regular basis a deficiency occurs, serious illness and health conditions may surface that not only affect the quality of the individuals life, but will typically have lasting effects.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency symptoms include impaired night vision, loss of hair, frequent or recurring infection(s), lack of growth or slowed growth, development of lesions on the skin, and the delayed healing time. In addition to vision problems, the other senses may also be affected. Problems with the sense of smell and taste can arise and can also decline. Hypogonadism, or the inability to produce adequate sex hormones may also develop in males. Patients with a zinc deficiency are also highly susceptible to many other common diseases, disorders, and infections.
Those Most At Risk for Zinc Deficiency
Although zinc deficiencies are often associated with developing countries, many individuals are at risk for developing a zinc deficiency. Studies indicate that those with diabetes mellitus, the elderly, pregnant or breastfeeding teens, malnourished persons, those who receive only intravenous feedings, and infants and children, and those with particular health conditions are most prone to develop a zinc deficiency. These conditions may include HIV, bowel disorders and diseases, and sickle cell anemia. The symptoms of zinc deficiency in these individuals can vary significantly and are dependent upon the severity of the deficiency, among many other factors. Patients in this particular risk group may also be at an elevated risk for other deficiencies of various vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
Zinc. Higdon, Jane Ph.D. Oregon State University. Linus Pauling Institute for Micronutrient Research for Optimum Health. Updated February 2008. Viewed 30, January 2010. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/zinc/.
Zinc in diet. Medline Plus. National Institute of Health. Updated 7, March 2009. Viewed 30, January 2010. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002416.htm.