In a national random survey of Australian adults, daily intakes of zinc were minimal, with 67% of men and 85% of women falling below the recommended daily allowance (RDA). The prevalence of primary zinc deficiency around the world is estimated at between 25-49% of the population.
Although zinc is found in all body tissues and fluid, high concentrations are found in skeletal muscles, bones, skin, the brain, eyes (particularly the macula), liver, spleen, pancreas, kidney and prostate. Zinc is required for over 300 enzyme reactions within the body including carbohydrate metabolism, protein and DNA synthesis, protein digestion, bone metabolism and supporting antioxidant pathways, while also playing an important role in growth and development, the immune response, neurological function and reproduction.
A mild zinc deficiency is common and can have an impact on health in a relatively short period of time. Primary deficiency tends to occur when there is inadequate dietary intake or when zinc absorption is inhibited. Taking iron supplements may also inhibit zinc absorption, although ironically, the presence of both iron and zinc in a meal does not reduce zinc absorption. A zinc deficiency is common in adolescents, the elderly, vegetarians, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Food sources of zinc
Food sources of zinc include meat, liver, eggs, seafood (especially oysters and shellfish), nuts, legumes, wholegrains, miso, tofu, brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, green beans and pumpkin seeds.
Phytates in the diet can inhibit zinc absorption. Phytates, found in foods such as wholegrains, nuts, legumes and beans, bind with zinc making it unavailable for absorption. The impact of phytates on zinc absorption can be minimised by soaking, heating, sprouting and fermenting these foods. The health of the digestive system and the amount of protein in the diet also contributes to the efficiency of zinc absorption.
Some of the amazinc benefits of zinc:
- Assists in the maintenance of healthy skin, promotes wound healing and may assist in the relief of the symptoms of minor skin disorders, such as mild acne, due to its role in skin repair
- Essential for the formation of connective tissue, teeth, bones, nails, hair and skin
- Required for enzymes and proteins involved in skin renewal
- Potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger that helps protect against free radical damage
- Supports the healthy functioning of the immune system
- May assist in the management of mild upper respiratory tract infections
- Helps to provide relief from the symptoms of colds, as well as reduce the severity of colds
- May help maintain a normal healthy appetite and normal taste sensation
- Aids in the healthy metabolism of carbohydrates and the digestion of proteins
- Plays a role in maintaining male reproductive health, where it’s important for the normal functioning of the prostate gland and for the healthy formation and maturation of sperm in healthy individuals