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Zinc Deficieny, Your Diet, and Your Health

Updated on August 20, 2009

Think About Zinc

I don’t hear people talking about zinc. They mention Vitamin C and B-12, or iron and calcium, but no one’s talking about zinc. Why is that?

Sadly, it’s just not all that popular even though it’s one of the most valuable nutrients in our bodies! Since I specialize in food, weight, and disordered eating, I have a lot to say about what the absence of zinc in your life is doing to your body, your appetite, and your health. Before I get to that though, I want to mention what else zinc helps!

  • Physical development
  • Male & female reproduction
  • Immune system function
  • All brain function
  • Development and functioning of the central nervous system
  • Sight, taste, and sound (vision, taste, and hearing)

Zinc deficiency is associated with the following breakdowns in the human body:

  • Diarrhea
  • Hair loss
  • Wounds that won’t heal quickly
  • Cataracts
  • Ulcers
  • Food Allergies
  • Osteoporosis
  • Hearing loss
  • Blood sugar impairments
  • Skin changes, including acne, eczema, psoriasis, et al. (Zinc deficiency has been seen in adult cases of acne and dramatic improvement in skin conditions have been seen with zinc supplementation.)
  • Mental disturbances (Alzheimer’s patients given zinc supplementation showed improved memory, understanding, communication and social contact. Zinc deficiency is very common in the elderly.)
  • Immune system dysfunction (Zinc and immunity go hand in hand. It has antiviral activity, includes defense again several strains of the common cold, stimulates the production of white blood cells, and helps the production of the thymus hormone, which is directly related to immune function.)
  • Diabetes (Zinc balances blood sugar. It helps the pancreas produce insulin and protects receptor sites so the insulin can go in and metabolize the glucose. Zinc also helps pregnant women cope with gestational diabetes.)
  • Prostate enlargement (Zinc reduces the size of the prostate as well as the symptoms of BPH – benign prostatic hyperplasia. It also diminishes the frequent urge to urinate and other symptoms associated with BPH.)
  • Accumulating toxic metals (The zinc to copper ratio needs to be 15:1. Copper levels become elevated when zinc levels are low, either from vegetarianism, lifestyle, and / or poor diet. When copper levels become elevated, copper toxicity results, which is associated with migraine headaches, damage to the eyes, macular degeneration, preeclampsia, breast cancer, lymphoma, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, leukemia, acne, adrenal gland insufficiency, anemia, PMS, a racing mind, overgrowth of candida, osteoarthritis, and viral infections.)
  • Sexual health (Zinc is required for fertility, used in every aspect of male reproduction, and essential during pregnancy. Zinc deficiency is associated with low sperm count and decreased testosterone in men, and pregnancy-related problems in women, such as, spontaneous abortion, toxemia, premature births, delivery problems, retardation, and more.)
  • Taste, vision, and smell loss (Zinc maintains vision, taste, and smell. Night blindness occurs often because of zinc deficiency. The elderly most commonly experience a lost of taste and smell, which is associated with zinc deficiency as well.)

How is zinc going to improve your relationship with food?

Have you ever heard of enzymes? They help the body do a host of functions, and frequently people take digestive enzymes to help them breakdown their food and distribute the nutrients appropriately. Zinc is involved in the creation and function of enzymes. It is also responsible for the metabolism of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

Zinc deficiency is associated with both anorexia and bulimia, as are many profound nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B. Zinc improves the desire to eat as well as the regulation of the appetite and improves moods. It is a critical nutrient for preventing eating disorders.

Often times, people with anorexic patterns of eating will complain that when they eat, they are bloated and uncomfortable, so they’d rather just not eat. What is actually happening though is a lack of digestive enzymes (made by zinc) and a need for probiotics.

Also, young girls will adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle to further restrict their food intake, and in doing so they reduce their intake of valuable minerals and vitamins; zinc notwithstanding. Consider that meat, oysters, dairy products, lamb, chicken, and salmon are all good sources of zinc. Vegetarianism will restrict the consumption of these foods. Also note that there are many other food-sources of zinc such as: pumpkin seeds, gingerroot, pecans, split peas, brazil nuts, oats, peanuts, lima beans, almonds, walnuts, and more!

Women and men who experience either hunger or fullness that is unhealthy and inappropriate would do well to take a Zinc Challenge (see below) and begin supplementation.

Why might you be deficient?

You may have difficulty absorbing zinc, which isn’t usually the case. Rather, most causes of zinc deficiency stem from the following:

  • A nutrient-deficient diet
  • Stress
  • Being a vegetarian
  • Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Exposure to toxic metals like
  • Copper in copper-lined pipes
  • Cadmium in cigarettes

How can you know for sure?

Take the zinc challenge! Ask your holistic nutritionist (or e-mail me for a phone consultation) for a zinc challenge. You may also be able to find liquid zinc in your health food store! Either way, the test is simple and quick.

Pour some zinc into a shot glass or tiny Dixie cup – all you need is a teaspoon or two.

Take it into your mouth and swish it around.


There are only a few possibilities:

  • You taste nothing = severely deficient; begin supplementation 2-3 times per day immediately.
  • You taste a faint metallic or hydrogen peroxide taste either right away or within a few minutes = slightly deficient; supplement 1 time per day until taste develops.
  • You taste metal = no zinc deficiency; no supplementation recommended.

The great thing about zinc is that by using the liquid supplementation (I recommend Designs for Health), you will know when you are not deficient anymore because you’ll taste it. This is the easiest supplement to have in your life because you receive constant and instantaneous feedback at all times.

Zinc about it!

Get more free resources from Theresa Singleton at!

Resources and Recommendations

Murray, Michael (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Atria Books, NY.

Vitamin Research Products:

Zinc Supreme fact sheet. Designs for Health: Science first.


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    • icmn91 profile image


      5 years ago from Australia

      Have you ever heard of plantar warts going away when people's zinc levels are adequate? A pharmacy assistant told us that it may earlier today.


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