There is a range of effects that signal zinc deficiency such as retardation of growth in children, male reproduction, low blood sugar, poor bone growth, brain disorders, high blood cholesterol, poor circulation, eating disorders, problems with female reproduction, poor skin, nails and hair conditions and poor sense of taste and smell.
Zinc is vital for healthy growth; dwarfism, stunted growth and being underweight for their age may occur in children if there diet is deficient in zinc.
Zinc is essential for sexual reproduction and development. Sperm needs zinc to function properly; any deficiency in zinc will affect fertility. Deficiency in zinc interferes with the cell division in sperm. Young boys going through puberty need higher levels of zinc to develop healthy reproductive organs. Any deficiency of zinc and the body will draw it from other areas such as the brain which could then lend to learning problems through puberty.
The prostate gland has the highest concentration of zinc in the body. The lack of zinc in older men has been linked to inflammation of the prostate gland known as prostatitis.
Zinc helps in the way the body regulates the high and lows of blood sugar level and it has been linked to help people who have hypoglycemia. The deficiency of zinc has an effect on circulation; it has been linked to cold hands and feet and high blood pressure. Cholesterol in the blood has a tendency to rise if there is a deficiency of zinc in the body.
Painful hip and knee joints have been linked to zinc deficiency, this is because the bones contain a large amount of zinc and any deficiency will cause them to become thicker and shorter causing pain and other symptoms. Also the body”s ability to heal would be compromised if there is a zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency in children can cause all types of brain disorders such as mild to severe retardation, dyslexia and other problems with mental development. This is because the area of the brain that controls emotions need to contain high levels of zinc. Depression and mental lethargy can also result from zinc deficiency. Mental diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia have been associated with the lack of zinc. The lack of zinc can also have a marked effect on emotional and addictive behavior such as alcoholism and obsessions. In the case of alcoholism, alcohol depletes zinc from the body when it is consumed which then intern starts a downward cycle of craving for more alcohol which then results in more depletion of zinc and so on. Zinc deficiency has also been linked with antisocial behavior such as delinquency and criminality.
Zinc deficiency has been associated as one of the contributing aspects to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. It has been noted that some people with anorexia nervosa lose the sense of taste, this links with zinc deficiency as it is known that some people with zinc deficiency have a poor sense of taste (ageusia) and smell (anosmia). Zinc supplement are known to stimulate appetite and improve food intake with people who have eating disorders.
The lack of zinc can cause problems with female reproduction; it can cause lack of ovulation, late onset of menstruation and amenorrhea (lack of periods).
Zinc deficiency has an effect on the skin, nails and promotes poor growth of hair. The skin loses its flexibility and elasticity and is prone to stretch marks, this affects pregnant women especially. Acne, boils, dermatitis, psoriasis and white marks on fingernails all respond to extra zinc in the diet.
Lack of zinc has also been associated with gum inflammation, increased risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, poor wound healing, eczema, tinnitus and acute diarrhea in Third World children.
Zinc deficiency is common in low-income pregnant women, pregnant teenagers, people suffering from liver cirrhosis, people with Down”s syndrome, children with alopecia areata, vegetarians, alcoholics, people with sickle cell anemia, people with chronic kidney disease and malabsorption problems.
Typical signs of zinc deficiency in a person are loss of appetite, poor sense of smell and taste, tendency towards depression, white marks on fingernails, pale skin, frequent infections, low fertility, stretch marks, prostate problems, stunted growth, mental problems, poor wound healing, a poor immune system, diarrhea, mental lethargy, poor appetite, rough skin, weight loss, ache and greasy skin.
To treat zinc deficiency, it is best to advise a person to increase foods that are high in zinc content within their diet. These foods are oysters, ginger root, lamb, pecan nuts, dry split peas, haddock, green peas, shrimps, turnips, Brazil nuts, egg yolks, whole wheat grain, rye, oats, peanuts and almonds. Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed butter are excellent sources of this vital mineral.
Good stomach acid, vitamin A, E and B6, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus will all help with the absorption of zinc.
Phytates (wheat), alcohol, oxalates such as rhubarb and spinach, stress, high calcium, high sugar intake, copper and low protein intake will all hamper the absorption of zinc.
Zinc supplements will also help with zinc deficiency; this can be either in the form of zinc sulphate or zinc gluconate ranging from doses of 15 to 300 mg for an adult. Chelated zinc is the best form of zinc supplements to be taken.
In conclusion, zinc is an essential mineral with over 300 enzymes reliant on it to help heal wounds, maintain fertility in adults, protect against free radicals, promote healthy growth in children, boost immunity, synthesize protein, preserve good vision and help cells reproduce. Deficiency is very common (especially in the Third World) and can cause major health complaints, zinc deficiency can be over come by consuming the right diet full of foods that are high in zinc and by supplementing the diet with chelated zinc.
About the author:
Stewart Hare C.H.Ed Dip NutTh
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