Zinc is a trace element that participates in many biochemical reactions in the body. It is only found in trace amounts in the body, 65% of which is concentrated in the muscles and 20% in the bones. It has a major role in the functioning of the body because it performs tasks in all the cells of the body. Since the body cannot produce it itself, it is essential to consume it daily through food, because a zinc deficiency can have real consequences on our health. However, studies show that 50% of the world's population does not consume enough. But how do we know if we are zinc deficient? We explain everything to you in this article.
What role does zinc play in the body?
You should know that zinc has a very significant impact on the health of the body. No other mineral has as strong an influence as it on immunity, skin and hair. It acts on the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells, the body's defense agents. It contributes to the synthesis of collagen in the skin, helps fight skin problems such as acne and plays an important role in healing. It also plays the role of antioxidants, and thus helps to slow down premature aging of the skin and prevent hair loss by protecting it from harmful environmental influences. It also participates in the synthesis of keratin and therefore in the maintenance of healthy hair and nails.
This trace element is also important for cell division, wound healing, maintaining neurological and reproductive functions, regulating blood sugar, as well as maintaining vision and smell.
Sources of zinc
Everyone needs an adequate intake of zinc to avoid deficiency. It is found in very variable quantities in foods. Animal proteins such as meat and offal, seafood (especially oysters) and cheese contain on average more zinc , in a form much better absorbed by the body, than products of plant origin such as fruit. nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes. Indeed, the latter contain what are called anti-nutrients such as phytates, oxalates or phosphates, which prevent the intestines from absorbing zinc properly. Vegetarians must therefore make sure to consume adequate quantities in order to avoid deficiencies.
What impact does a zinc deficiency have?
Daily zinc intake
The body needs very little zinc , but this intake is essential, and many people suffer from zinc deficiency without knowing it. The recommended nutritional intakes (ANC) vary according to age, physiological (pregnancy, breastfeeding) and pathological state. For children, they are between 8 and 14 mg/day, for men, they are around 10 mg/day, for women around 7 mg/day, and finally for pregnant and breastfeeding women and elderly people, they are around 11 mg/day.
Why do you suffer from zinc deficiency?
Some people are more likely to develop a zinc deficiency, because of a lower dietary intake, or because of a greater need. Athletes who sweat a lot, pregnant and breastfeeding women, vegetarians and vegans, people with chronic stress, as well as people with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases are at increased risk of zinc deficiency. This is because they either lose large amounts of zinc or their intestines cannot absorb it sufficiently.
How do you know if you are deficient in zinc?
If the body lacks zinc , it will make you feel it quickly. We can note certain particular signs such as:
- Slow healing of wounds: a zinc deficiency weakens the healing process
- A lack of appetite: loss of appetite is one of the symptoms of a lack of zinc which has not yet found a real explanation
- Severe fatigue: it is not specific to zinc deficiency, but it should still be taken into account
- Memory loss and learning difficulties: brain activity is slowed down (decreased production of neurotransmitters), sometimes with problems with memory loss
- A depressed mood: in the long term, a lack of zinc intake may play a role in the development of psychiatric pathologies and cognitive decline.
- Skin problems: the quality of the skin is affected, it peels, sometimes with acne
- Fragile, dull hair that falls out in greater quantities than usual
- Brittle nails and white spots on the nails
- Frequent colds: zinc deficiency makes the body more susceptible to respiratory and ENT infections
- Sensory disorders (smell, taste, sight)
- Erectile dysfunction
A zinc deficiency can cause problems for your health. So if you have more than one of these symptoms, you can make sure you're getting your optimal intake with a blood test. If you are indeed deficient in zinc , you can adapt your diet accordingly or turn to supplementation, food supplements rich in zinc and highly assimilable by the body. If you have any doubt, consult a doctor or healthcare professional.