By Healthgrades Editorial Staff Last Updated: January 4, 2019 Was this helpful?
Zinc is an important mineral required for a number of bodily functions involving energy and metabolism.
One of its most important roles is in supporting our immune system, which protects us from pathogens, infections, and disease.
Zinc also plays a role in carbohydrate breakdown (which supplies energy), as well as growth, division, and reproduction of our cells.
A healthy, balanced diet can help provide necessary minerals and vitamins. Zinc is found in protein-rich foods, such as beans, red meat (beef and lamb), and peanuts. If you are deficient in zinc, it can also be taken as a supplement.
Because zinc is so important across numerous functions, a deficiency of zinc can cause a host of problems.
People with zinc deficiency can experience vision and hearing loss, susceptibility to infections, delayed sexual maturation (in men), stunted growth, hair loss, appetite and weight loss, dry skin, and anemia. Proper zinc intake is especially important to the development of growing children.
Extreme zinc deficiency can be dangerous to the health and wellness of growing children.
Seekprompt medical care if you suspect your child is not getting adequate amounts of zinc and is experiencing symptoms of delayed or stunted growth, frequent infections, and appetite and weight loss. These symptoms could also indicate other serious conditions requiring medical attention.
Zinc is essential for growth, cell division and reproduction, blood cell development, and the senses. As a result, if you are deficient in zinc, your symptoms can affect many of your bodily systems and functions.
Common symptoms of zinc deficiency include:
- Alopecia (hair loss or thinning)
- Delayed sexual maturation (in men)
- Dry or scaly skin
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of vision or changes in vision
- Poor or stunted growth
- Recurring infections
- Reduced sense of smell or taste
- Slow-healing wounds or bruises, or other conditions
- Unexplained weight loss
In some cases, zinc deficiency can be a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms:
- Developmental delays and failure to thrive (in children)
- Recurring infections
- Unusual or extreme weight loss
Zinc deficiency is caused by inadequate levels of zinc in the diet. Zinc is an important mineral required for a number of functions involving energy and metabolism.
One of its most significant roles is in supporting the immune system, which protects us from pathogens, infections and disease.
Zinc also plays a role in carbohydrate breakdown (which supplies energy), as well as in cell growth, division and reproduction.
It is harder for your body to obtain zinc from vegetable sources than from meat sources; therefore, some people with vegetarian diets may be deficient in zinc.
Eating a balanced, healthy diet that incorporates foods high in zinc, including protein-rich foods, such as beans, red meat (beef and lamb), and peanuts, can help reduce your risk of zinc deficiency.
If your diet is largely vegetarian, you may need to take zinc supplements.
You may be at risk for zinc deficiency because of a number of factors. Not all people with risk factors will get zinc deficiency. Risk factors for zinc deficiency include:
Fortunately, zinc deficiency is preventable. Your health care provider can advise you about steps you can take to reduce your risk, including providing guidelines for required daily zinc intake.
You may be able to lower your risk of zinc deficiency by:
Following the guidelines established by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board
Obtaining zinc from dietary sources, such as peanuts and beef or lamb
Taking zinc supplements if your diet does not provide sufficient zinc
Zinc deficiency is treated by supplementation to restore amounts of zinc in your diet. This may include zinc supplements as well as increasing or introducing foods that are rich in zinc and following recommended dietary guidelines.
Zinc deficiency can be prevented by ensuring intake of the recommended amounts of zinc through:
- Obtaining zinc from dietary sources, such as peanuts and beef or lamb
- Using zinc supplements if your diet does not provide adequate levels of zinc
Although zinc deficiency is both preventable and treatable, potential complications of untreated zinc deficiency can be serious and even life threatening in some cases. To help minimize your risk of serious complications, it is important to follow the treatment plan you and your health care provider design specifically for you. Complications of zinc deficiencies include:
- Delayed cognitive and physical development in children
- Frequent infections
Was this helpful? Healthgrades Editorial Staff Last Review Date: 2019 Jan 4