I was asked a question on zinc and its role in nutrition.

Zinc is one of the essential components of the six enzyme classes present in the body. The mineral helps transmit messages from one cell to the other. Zinc deficiency is a major public health concern.

Its deficiency — according to literature — depresses growth, causes appetite loss, skin lesions, and diarrhea, impairs testicular development, reduces immune and cognitive functions. It can lead to dwarfism, delayed puberty, impaired wound healing and increases susceptibility to infectious disease.

An adult human contains 2 to 3 grams of zinc. Off this, 0.1% is said to be replenished daily. Replenishment rate determines dietary recommendations for healthy individuals. Zinc deficiency amongst people across the world is estimated to be equal or more than 25%.

Zinc deficiency can occur in people with diets low in bioavailable zinc food, like red meat and unrefined cereals rich in phytate and dietary fibers. Major manifestations of zinc deficiency include stunted growth and development, and an increased incidence of pregnancy complications (Gibson, 1994).

On the other hand, a high intake of zinc is also known to lead to copper deficiency. The relation between zinc and diabetes is suspected, and is an area of research (Maret et al., 2006).

Zinc is a nontoxic element. Excessive supplementation can lead to copper deficiency (Sandstead, 1995). The best sources for zinc are red meats, liver, shellfish, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.

There is strong evidence to support the fact that zinc, a key constituent of over 300 proteins, may be critical to defense against the initiation and progression of cancer (Ho, 2004).

To know more on zinc and other building blocks for human nutrition, you can check here. There is a Bibliography attached at the end of this title. For those who are into research on nutrition, they will find this useful.

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