Signs of Zinc Deficiency

December 1, 2020


Zinc is important for your health.

Zinc is an essential trace mineral that's important to your body in a variety of ways, says Dr. Yufang Lin, an integrative medicine physician with the Center for Integrative Medicine at Cleveland Clinic.

Zinc is important for:

-- Immune function.

- Protein synthesis

-- Wound healing.

-- Cellular regeneration.

-- Hormone synthesis.

How much zinc do you need?

The amount of zinc you need depends on factors like your age and individual circumstances. For example, adult women should get 8 milligrams of zinc daily, while men should consume 11 milligrams, according to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements. Pregnant teens should consume 12 milligrams a day, and children ages 9 to 13 need 8 milligrams. If you're not sure how much zinc you need, consult your primary health care provider.

Here are six signs of zinc deficiency:

1. Diarrhea

A lack of zinc is associated with alterations in the body's immune response that "probably contribute to increased susceptibility to infections, such as those that cause diarrhea, especially in children," according to the NIH. Research suggests that malnourished youngsters in Africa, India, South America and Southeast Asia endured shorter bouts of diarrhea after consuming zinc supplements.

2. Poor wound healing

Zinc deficiency can compromise the body's immune system, which in turn harms its wound-healing ability, according to the NIH.

3. Age-related macular degeneration

According to the NIH, age-related macular degeneration is "an eye disease that gradually causes vision loss." Research suggests that taking a dietary zinc supplement could reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD. If you're at risk of developing AMD, ask your health care provider about taking dietary zinc supplements.

4. Decreased sperm count and low testosterone

One of the major functions of zinc is the production of hormones, including testosterone, says Kaylee Jacks, a registered dietitian with Texas Health Sports Medicine in Dallas. "Zinc is required for the production of testosterone," she says. "When zinc is deficient there is less testosterone circulating throughout the body. Testosterone is needed to secrete sperm." Low testosterone can result in decreased sperm count.

5. Diminished sense of taste and smell

Losing a sharp ability to taste and smell can affect older adults who have zinc deficiency.

6. Skin rashes around the mouth, nose and anus

Some people with zinc deficiency may develop skin rashes around their orifices. Zinc maintains the health of skin and mucosal membranes, Jacks says.

What should you do if you think you have zinc deficiency?

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take if you believe you have symptoms from a zinc deficiency, says Dr. Keerti Sharma, chief of geriatrics and the program director for the Geriatrics Fellowship at Atlantic Health System's Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey.

Here are three strategies you can use if you have symptoms associated with zinc deficiency.

1. Consider getting a blood test for zinc deficiency.

Keep in mind that such tests are not always reliable in people with milder forms of the deficiency, Sharma says. Ask your primary care physician whether you should get a blood test.

2. Take dietary zinc supplements.

Zinc deficiency should be treated with zinc supplementation at two to three times the recommended dietary allowance, Sharma says. Moderate to severe deficiency can be treated at four to five times the RDA. "Treatment should last for six months," she says.

3. Increase your consumption of zinc-rich foods.

You can try to get sufficient zinc by eating foods rich in the mineral.

Good sources of zinc include:

-- Red meat.

-- Poultry.

-- Shellfish.

-- Beans.

-- Nuts.

-- Milk.

-- Cheese.

-- Cereals fortified with zinc.

To recap, here are six signs of zinc deficiency:

-- Diarrhea.

-- Poor wound healing.

-- Age-related macular degeneration.

-- Decreased sperm count and low testosterone.

-- Diminished sense of taste and smell.

-- Skin rashes around the mouth, nose and anus.


Share this blog post