We often clouded by several questions regarding our health. How to be healthy? What are the nutrients and how often these nutrients are required? What are the benefits and side effects of these nutrients? All these questioned must be answered to understand the building blocks of healthy life. Like other nutrients Zinc is an essential trace mineral which is responsible for the growth and development of the children and boosting of immunity.

What is Zinc Deficiency?

Deficiency of zinc in human body may be caused by several factors. Some of the factors include prolonged deprivation of zinc rich diet, malabsorption due to existing digestive disorders and health conditions like acrodermatitis enteropathica. Long term zinc deficiency may be deadly.

Functions of Zinc

Although zinc is a trace mineral but its contribution to human body is incredible. It is responsible for the growth and development of the child, sexual development and maturation in adolescents. In case of severe deficiency, it may lead to mental retardation, impotency and hypogonadism. 

Causes of Zinc Deficiency

The condition of zinc deficiency can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major factors have been illustrated below:

  • Zinc Deficient Diet: The most common cause of zinc deficiency is consumption of zinc deficit diet. It can either the unavailability or inaccessibility of zinc rich food items. Sometimes these food items are not available to lower income group due to their tight pocket. 
  • Nutrient Deficient Soil: The concentration of nutrients in the food items depends upon the nutrient concentration of the corresponding soil on which it has been cultivated. In some part of the globe soils are found to be poor in zinc which results in low concentration of zinc in food produces.
  • GI Disorders: Malabsorption is the second most prevalent cause of zinc deficiency. Improper digestion disrupts the zinc cycle and lead to low zinc content in body. It may be caused by prolonged gastrointestinal disorders.  
  • Enhanced Requirement: When there is imbalance between supply and demand of zinc in the body it may either increase or decrease the zinc content. Pregnant women and children in adolescent age needs higher amount of zinc for the optimum development of unborn child and children.   

Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency 

The common symptoms of Zinc deficiency include:

  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hair loss
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Diarrhoea
  • Delayed sexual maturity
  • Mental retardation
  • Impaired growth and development
  • Impaired immunity

Health Risks due to Low Zinc Level

  • Delayed Growth & Development: Low zinc level affects have very detrimental effects on human health especially in children. It causes impaired physical, mental growth and development. It may also cause delayed sexual development and maturation and in severe case impotency
  • Impaired Immunity: Zinc deficiency is known to compromise the human defence system. IT results in frequent viral and bacterial infections as well as it increases the normal recovery period for several diseases for example cough and cold. 
  • Age Related Muscular Degeneration: Prolonged low concentration of zinc may lead to muscular degeneration. It may cause age related eye disorders due to cellular damage in retina.   

Some other health risk associated with Zinc deficiencies are impaired wound healing, imbalance between iron and zinc and copper.  

Tests for Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is present in traces in our cells and tissues. It very difficult to detect zinc through normal blood test. Several test like blood, urine and hair tests are used to identify concentration of zinc in human body.

  • Zinc Blood Test: Owing to availability of zinc in our body normal blood test may be insufficient. Doctor may advise to plasma-based analysis of zinc in our body. This test is the most accurate test for zinc.  
  • Urine Test: In addition to blood test urine tests are also used to decipher zinc deficiency however it is not as accurate than plasma-based blood test.  

If you have health conditions which may cause deficiency, doctors me advise for these tests for the confirmation of zinc inadequacy.

Remedies of Zinc Deficiency 

  • Zinc Supplements: In case of severe deficiency doctor may prescribe medical supplements however it should be consumed in the control manner as high doses of zinc may lead to other health risks.   
  • Zinc Rich Diet: The best solution to this deficiency is zinc rich food items. Some of the Zinc rich food items are whole grain, oyster, crab, red meat, poultry, nuts and chickpeas.
  • Fortified Food Items: Several food items have very low concentration of zinc in this circumstance we need to adopt fortification process of food items to rich our daily requirements of zinc through the diet.
  • Quit Alcoholism: Prolonged alcoholism is the major cause of GI disorders, which translates into inefficacy of zinc absorption in the body.

Prevention of Zinc Deficiency

It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true with reference to mineral deficiencies. Zinc deficiency can be prevented through consumption of Zinc rich diet.

Food items rich in Zinc:

  • whole grain
  • Oyster
  • Crab
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Nuts
  • Chickpeas
  • Fortified food items

Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):

The ideal way to prevent zinc deficiencies is to main balanced and healthy diet. The daily intakes of zinc varies with age however, the recommended daily intake of Zinc for an adult is 8-11 mg.

The above texts elaborate the importance of zinc and associated health risks. It is vital for the growth and development either its mental or physical. Zinc boots our immunity and protects from several infections and diseases. 

Although Zinc deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the appropriate consultation and supplements as prescribed by medical experts. The best possible way to avoid these circumstances by consuming adequate amount of zinc as per RDA through various Zinc rich diet.