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A forgotten essential micronutrient: Zinc (ZN)

According to the Global Nutrition Report 2018, “Micronutrient deficiencies are estimated to impact a significant number of people around the world, but there remains far too little information on micronutrient status and deficiencies. More essential information and surveillance need to be gathered to make substantial progress on global targets.” 

Zn is the essential micronutrients for the human due to its unique physicochemical characteristics. Zn has been involved in the various physiological processes inside the body and required by proteins, carbohydrate, lipids and nucleic acids for their synthesis and proper functioning. Zn deficiency leads to the stunting growth, increases the prevalence and severity of diarrhea, weak immunity, and in some cases diminishes the night vision. Thus information is needed on the Zinc deficiency by the national survey to combat the adverse health consequences of Zn deficiency. Food Balance Sheets published by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation) give insight the severity of Zn deficiency as at least 17% of world population have been on the inadequate Zn intake. Although severe zinc deficiency is rare in humans, mild to moderate deficiency may be common worldwide.

Food sources and recommended intake of Zn

Zn is naturally present in the wide variety of foods. Best source of the Zn is Oyster, followed by red and poultry meat Table1. Plants source also contain the varying amount of Zn but the presence of phytase inhibits its absorption from the food. Daily requirement of the Zn varies to the age and gender, and accordingly recommended by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences) Table2.






0–6 months

2 mg*

2 mg*



7–12 months

3 mg

3 mg



1–3 years

3 mg

3 mg



4–8 years

5 mg

5 mg



9–13 years

8 mg

8 mg



14–18 years

11 mg

9 mg

12 mg

13 mg

19+ years

11 mg

8 mg

11 mg

12 mg

                    Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Zinc

Zinc and Health

Immune function: Immunity is compromised under mild to moderate Zn deficiency by impairing the macrophage and neutrophil functions, natural killer cell activity, and complement activity. These are the reason which leads to susceptibility to infection like pneumonia in children under low Zn conditions.


Milligrams (mg)
per serving

Percent DV*

Oysters, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces



Beef chuck roast, braised, 3 ounces



Crab, Alaska king, cooked, 3 ounces



Beef patty, broiled, 3 ounces



Breakfast cereal, fortified with 25% of the DV for zinc, ¾ cup serving



Lobster, cooked, 3 ounces



Pork chop, loin, cooked, 3 ounces



Baked beans, canned, plain or vegetarian, ½ cup



Chicken, dark meat, cooked, 3 ounces



Yogurt, fruit, low fat, 8 ounces



Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce



Chickpeas, cooked, ½ cup



Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Zinc

Diarrhea: Diarrhea is still the one of the most prevailing disease and leads to the deaths of 525 000 children every year (second most) under 5 years of age across the world, but pandemic mainly occur in the developing countries. Zn supplements in malnutrition diarrheic children result in the shorter courses of infectious diarrhea and Dosage of Zn supplements (20 mg of zinc per day, or 10 mg for infants under 6 months, for 10–14 days) is now recommended by WHO and UNICEF.

Alzheimer and Parkinson Disease: In the brain, Zn plays important and crucial role in the neuron to neuron signaling. Moreover, hippocampus and cerebral cortex have the highest concentration of Zn. Zn maintain homeostasis to their concentration and any deviation from homeostasis results changing in learning, behavior, memory, and emotional stability. Further, substantial changes in Zn homeostasis led to the pathogenesis of many neurodegenerative disorders, such Alzheimer and Parkinson disease.  

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