Zinc deficiency is associated with a wide range of symptoms that can lead to the diagnosis of various health conditions. Whether you’re already feeling low, or are simply looking to support your wellbeing preventatively, properly understanding this deficiency and how zinc works in the body can help you get better and stay feeling good.
Zinc plays a crucial role for over 300 enzymes to carry out vital chemical reactions in the body, making it a building block for experiencing vibrant health1. Some key roles include assisting in the metabolism of the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, nucleic acids, and other micronutrients you consume, making it key to properly assimilating all the foods you eat to nourish your body. Zinc also plays a role in gene expression through a process known as polynucleotide biosynthesis, where it helps cellular replication and transcription2.
Understanding Cationic Zinc Deficiency
Once zinc is absorbed in body fluids, it is called Cationic zinc. Since so many health markers rely on this microelement, zinc has been the subject of studies for a very long time. These studies focus not only on the interaction between zinc and disease models but also taking a step back to understand zinc as an element and how it functions in the body3.
Some of the key discoveries in these decades of studying dispel many of the beliefs and assumptions that many people, including alleged experts, hold about zinc. They include the fact that blood levels of zinc only account for approximately 0.1 percent of your body’s overall zinc stores4. Therefore, testing blood zinc levels is not accurate in measuring zinc deficiency.
Another false assumption is that oral supplementation is the best way to address zinc deficiency. When we explore the science, a more appropriate first step in addressing the body’s inability to properly absorb zinc is a bigger culprit of zinc deficiency5.
Another common cause of low zinc levels in the body is rooted in the imbalance of the zinc-to-copper ratio. Zinc and copper as antagonistic elements, meaning that elevated levels of one can depress levels of the other. In this case, elevated levels of copper in the body can often cause lower zinc levels in the body. Science shows that having this ratio balanced is often more important than the actual concentration levels of either of these minerals in the body6.
Symptoms of Zinc Deficiency
Since zinc is an essential mineral that plays many roles in the body, a deficiency can wreak havoc on many bodily functions. Although deficiencies are most common in developing countries, many people in America still don’t consume enough zinc to thrive7.
Zinc deficiency can lead to various health concerns, including:
- Delayed growth and development
- Impaired immune function
- Skin conditions
- Loss of appetite
Zinc-rich foods are our main source of this mineral and include foods like seafood, red meat, poultry, nuts, and grass-fed dairy. Like with supplementation, you can only absorb as much zinc as your body is functioning properly– so addressing gut issues is key to getting the most out of the dietary zinc you consume8.
The Link Between Zinc Deficiency and Disease
Many modern disease diagnoses can be attributed to deficiency and imbalance ratios of vital nutrients like zinc. Billions of dollars have been spent studying the link between zinc and various disease models. Nearly 20,000 scientific studies alone explore the relationship between zinc and cancer9. Taking zinc as an oral supplement is typically not a useful solution since zinc deficiency is more about malabsorption than an actual deficiency of consumption.
Humans don’t need much of this microelement to feel good, but these small amounts do need to be properly absorbed. One intermediary solution, while addressing bigger issues to absorption like healing the gut, is to use topical zinc.
Another interesting application for zinc is its use as a topical agent. As our biggest organ, the skin offers the opportunity to act as a portal between supplements and the body, bypassing the stomach and digestive tract entirely. The topical route may offer promising results for those dealing with poor absorption or assimilation of foods or supplements.
Two well-studied uses for topical zinc include the treatment of acne and cancer. With potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, zinc has can help clear acne from the face and body by reducing inflammation and inhibiting the growth of acne-causing bacteria10.
In the world of cancer, Dr. Frederic E. Mohs spearheaded the use of topical zinc compositions as a treatment for skin cancer in 1933. At the time, he was a young research assistant assigned the task of injecting different chemicals into cancerous rat tissues to produce specific reactions. His work evolved into efforts to completely remove tumors while preserving as much healthy tissue as possible11.
Does Your Zinc Contain 7 Forms of Zinc?
We recommend Zinc 7 because it may:
- Significantly boost immunity (knowing you’re better protected)
- Help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep (wake up refreshed)
- Lose weight faster on the same amount of calories (a must-have for a healthy metabolism)
- Boost hormone health, sex drive, and performance (both men and women!)
- Protect your liver against carcinogens and toxins (keep “fatty liver” away)
- And even transform your gums and teeth (stop bleeding, decay, and keep them whiter)
As a mineral that is needed in over 100 enzymatic reactions in the body, zinc plays a crucial role in maintaining good health. Testing for zinc deficiency is often done improperly since blood zinc levels are not an adequate marker for overall zinc in the body.
When a deficiency is present, supplementation should not be the first course of action since individuals are commonly deficient due to poor absorption capabilities. Individuals can then rely on zinc-rich foods and supplementation to increase their levels by first addressing absorption.
- “Zinc.” Harvard: The Nutrition Source, 2 Mar. 2022, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/zinc/.
- Giedroc, D P et al. “Zinc metalloproteins involved in replication and transcription.” Journal of inorganic biochemistry vol. 28,2-3 (1986): 155-69. doi:10.1016/0162-0134(86)80079-4
- “Zinc Cation.” Zinc Cation – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/zinc-cation.
- Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 12, zinc. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK222317/
- Lönnerdal, Bo. “Dietary Factors Influencing Zinc Absorption.” The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 130, no. 5, 2000, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/130.5.1378s.
- DiNicolantonio, James, and Siim Land. The Mineral Fix: How to Optimize Your Mineral Intake for Energy, Longevity, Immunity, Sleep and More. Independently Published, 2021.
- “Zinc Deficiencies a Global Concern.” Oregon State University, 5 Oct. 2017, https://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2009/sep/zinc-deficiencies-global-concern.
- Maares, Maria, and Hajo Haase. “A Guide to Human Zinc Absorption: General Overview and Recent Advances of In Vitro Intestinal Models.” Nutrients vol. 12,3 762. 13 Mar. 2020, doi:10.3390/nu12030762
- Gupta, Mrinal et al. “Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review.” Dermatology research and practice vol. 2014 (2014): 709152. doi:10.1155/2014/709152
- DePaolo, Charles. “Frederic E. Mohs, MD, and the history of zinc chloride.” Clinics in dermatology vol. 36,4 (2018): 568-575. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2017.12.001