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Zinc

What is Zinc?

Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in almost every cell. It stimulates the activity of approximately 100 enzymes, which are substances that promote biochemical reactions in your body. Zinc supports a healthy immune system, is needed for wound healing, helps maintain your sense of taste and smell, and is needed for DNA synthesis. Zinc also supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence.

What foods provide Zinc?

Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, certain seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products. Zinc absorption is greater from a diet high in animal protein than a diet rich in plant proteins. Phytates, which are found in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other products, can decrease zinc absorption.

What is the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Zinc?

The latest recommendations for zinc intake are given in the new Dietary Reference Intakes developed by the Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) is the umbrella term for a group of reference values used for planning and assessing nutrient intake for healthy people. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA), one of the DRIs, is the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98%) healthy individuals. For infants 0 to 6 months, the DRI is in the form of an Adequate Intake, which is the mean intake of zinc in healthy, breast fed infants. The AI for zinc for infants from 0 through 6 months is 2.0 milligrams (mg) per day.

When can Zinc Deficiency occur?

Zinc deficiency most often occurs when zinc intake is inadequate or poorly absorbed, when there are increased losses of zinc from the body, or when the bodys requirement for zinc increases. Signs of zinc deficiency include growth retardation, hair loss, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation and impotence, eye and skin lesions, and loss of appetite. There is also evidence that weight loss, delayed healing of wounds, taste abnormalities, and mental lethargy can occur. Since many of these symptoms are general and are associated with other medical conditions, do not assume they are due to a zinc deficiency. It is important to consult with a medical doctor about medical symptoms so that appropriate care can be given.

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