Zinc is a metallic element which exists in micro-quantaties in the human body. However, deficiencies in zinc have been linked to a host of different diseases. What characterizes a deficiency in zinc? How widespread is the global prevalence for zinc deficiency and what are some possible causes? What are some sources of zinc found available in the diet and how well are they utilized biologically? What role does zinc play in metabolism and what is the potential health impact for deficiencies in zinc?
Zinc is present in all body tissues and fluids. Total content in the human body is around two grams. Zinc is an essential component of several hundred enzyme catalyzed reactions, including gene expression, cell development and replication. Zinc plays a role in the function of the immune system, cognition, as well as growth and motor development. Zinc deficiency has been associated with poor growth, poor motor and mental development, immune dysfunction, increased morbidity, including diarrhea and pneumonia, hair loss, impaired taste acuity, poor wound healing and delayed puberty as well as increased mortality. About one third of the world's population lives in areas that are at high risk of zinc deficiency. There is significant overlap of the areas of zinc deficiency with those areas showing increased incidences of stunted growth. Zinc deficiency is often found in areas where dietary intakes are high in plant-based foods, including unprocessed grains (presence of phytates), and low in animal foods (good sources of zinc). Diarrhea can also play a significant role in zinc loss and thus further exacerbating the deficiency.
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This solution discusses zinc deficiency and its effect on global health.