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Zinc deficiency- the most common deficiency in the world

Zinc deficiency- the most common deficiency in the world

The importance of zinc for a healthy living is beyond the shadow of a doubt. From blood to hair, it is found in almost every part of the body. Zinc is an essential cofactor, a cellular building block and a vital mineral that plays an exceptionally versatile role in the body, yet unfortunately zinc deficiency remains the most common micronutrient deficiency in the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that global prevalence of zinc deficiency is about 31% and around 17.3% of the population worldwide is at the risk of its development.

Vital for healthy functioning of the immune and reproductive system, zinc also supports many functions at cellular and subcellular levels and improves skin and gut health. It is responsible for over 100 biological processes and keeps your body system healthy. Although zinc is a nutrient that plays many crucial roles for overall health and wellbeing, it cannot be naturally produced by our body. There are no specialised storage systems for zinc in the body, therefore it needs to be taken everyday in adequate amounts as a part of the diet.

Causes of zinc deficiency

The most significant determinants of development of zinc deficiency are insufficient intake and malabsorption. However, there are many different causes for the same. Let’s have a look at few of them –

  1. Unhealthy gut conditions like ulcerative colitis, coeliac disease etc. leads to problems in zinc absorption.
  2. Long term illnesses like chronic liver, kidney diseases or sickle cell disease.
  3. Excess alcohol intake
  4. Diabetes
  5. A vegetarian diet can lead to zinc deficiency as lots of zinc is obtained from meat and seafood.
  6. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers are prone to zinc deficiency as babies get zinc only from their mother leaving the mother’s body with lower amounts of zinc.
  7. Persistent diarrhoea

Symptoms of zinc deficiency

Zinc is an important mineral which plays a vital role in cell growth, cell division, breakdown of carbohydrates, DNA synthesis, immune function and a lot more. As a result, its deficiency can affect many of your bodily systems and functions.

Recognising the symptoms that you are deficient in this essential nutrient can be tricky because first of all they don’t show up right away and can be non-specific, secondly the symptoms depend on the severity of deficiency. One may experience some of those mentioned below and not necessarily all of them –

  1. Diarrhoea
  2. Loss of weight
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Fatigue
  5. Reduced sensation of taste and smell
  6. Gastrointestinal problems
  7. Skin rashes and acne
  8. Low immunity
  9. Hair thinning and greying
  10. Delayed wound healing

Zinc deficiency is also associated with many health conditions like cancer, liver diseases, reproductive issues, hormonal complaints, inflammatory bowel diseases and many more. Prompt medical care must be seeked if one has any of the following serious symptoms –

  • Developmental delays (in children)
  • Recurring infections
  • Unusual or extreme weight loss

Zinc, pregnancy and breastfeeding

It is a well known fact that zinc is passed to infants only through mother’s breast milk. Zinc requirements during lactation are greater than those during pregnancy. This is because breastfeeding can leave the mother’s body with insufficient levels of zinc. Lactating mothers are advised to take a diet rich in zinc and iron so that they are able to produce milk with a higher concentration of these minerals. If babies do not get enough zinc, their growth will be slower and they will not gain weight as they should for their age.  It is essential for proper growth and development of a baby. Because of this, a healthy zinc rich diet during lactation is an absolute must.

Zinc deficiency in India

India has significantly reduced nutritional deficiencies over the past few decades but sadly for micronutrients like zinc, studies show a worsening condition. Studies conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that the highest rate of inadequate zinc intake is concentrated in states with rice-dominated diets such as Tamil Nadu, Meghalaya, Kerala, Manipur and Andhra Pradesh. This is because rice has low levels of zinc causing deficiency in people who rely heavily on it.

Natural sources of zinc

There are many foods one can eat to fulfill the daily zinc requirements and eating a varied diet with good sources of zinc is the best way to ensure that you are getting enough of this micronutrient. Following are some natural zinc rich foods – 

  • Read meat
  • Chicken
  • Nuts
  • Lamb
  • Dairy products – cheese & yogurt
  • Fish
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Oysters – they have zinc serving more than any other food
  • Seafood like crab and lobster
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains – rice, wheat, quinoa, oats
  • Dark chocolate – a 100gm bar of dark chocolate (70-85% dark) contains 3.3mg of zinc. However, it must not be eaten as a primary source.

These foods are a delicious and beneficial addition to your diets. Make sure you are eating enough to maintain good health.

The food and nutrition board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies has developed the recommended amount of daily zinc intake on the basis of age. 

Daily recommendations of zinc intake are –

  • Children 0–6 months old: 2 mg
  • Children 7–12 months old: 3 mg
  • Children 1–3 years old: 3 mg
  • Children 4–8 years old: 5 mg
  • Children 9–13 years old: 8 mg
  • Adults and children 14 years old and older: 11 mg for males and 9 mg for females

Pregnant women should have 12 mg per day of zinc, and lactating women should have 13 mg per day of this essential mineral.

Zinc Supplementation

Zinc is an essential mineral for proper growth and development of the human body and its deficiency can cause a wide range of health problems including decreased immune function, hair loss, impotence, loss of appetite, skin issues, vision and eyesight problems and many more. 

Since the human body is not capable of storing excess zinc or synthesizing this vital micronutrient, consuming zinc from food sources regularly is necessary for optimal health. However, people who have digestive disorders, are vegetarians, have had gastrointestinal surgeries, or people with sickle cell disease are not able to get adequate amounts of zinc in their diet. Therefore supplementation is the most effective and a popular line of defense. Vogue Wellness Vozi capsules are one of the best selections of zinc supplements available on the market.  All vogue wellness supplements are high quality and affordable with absolutely no exception to their standards. 

Make sure you check with your doctor before you start taking any of the supplements as zinc supplements have the potential to interact with other medications.

How to diagnose Zinc Deficiency?

Diagnosis can be done with a blood test to check the levels of zinc however, it may not give a definitive result because zinc is present in trace amounts in the body cells making it difficult to detect the deficiency through a simple blood test. It is possible to be actually deficient in zinc and have normal blood zinc levels. For an accurate result, doctors might need to do the blood plasma test.

Urine test and analysis of hair strand are other diagnostic tests for the same.

Zinc deficiency may lead to other health conditions like copper deficiency and in order to determine the root cause, additional testing might be done.

Although it is possible to treat and prevent zinc deficiency, if left untreated, it can cause serious complications which can also be life threatening in some cases. Now that its importance is clear and known to us all, it is imperative that adequate amounts of zinc is consumed through dietary sources or supplements to restore the amounts in our body.

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