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12.8B: Zinc Deficiency and Toxicity

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  • As can be seen on the bottom map in the link below, the risk of zinc deficiency is low in North America, but there are other places in the world where it is much more common.

    Figure 12.821 Worldwide prevalence of zinc deficiency1

    At particular risk are children, pregnant women, elderly and the poor1. Symptoms of zinc deficiency include2,3:

    Growth inhibition
    Delayed sexual maturation
    Hair loss
    Impaired immune function
    Skeletal abnormalities

    In the link below you can see a picture of an infant with dermatitis caused by zinc deficiency.

    Web Link

    Zinc Deficiency Dermatitis

    Another cause of zinc deficiency is mutation of ZIP4 that results in the condition acrodermatitis enteropathica. Without ZIP4, zinc cannot be taken up efficiently into the enterocyte. This condition is managed by administering very high levels of zinc, some of which is absorbed through other mechanisms3.

    Zinc toxicity is not common, but an acute toxicity results in2:


    Intestinal cramps


    Chronic toxicity can result in copper deficiency, as will be discussed in the copper section3.

    References & Links

    1. Wessells KR, Brown KH. (2012) Estimating the Global Prevalence of Zinc Deficiency: Results Based on Zinc Availability in National Food Supplies and the Prevalence of Stunting. PLoS ONE 7(11): e50568

    2. Byrd-Bredbenner C, Moe G, Beshgetoor D, Berning J. (2009) Wardlaw's perspectives in nutrition. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

    3. Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. (2008) Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.


    Zinc Deficiency -

    Zinc Deficiency Dermatitis -

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