Common Causes Of Zinc Deficiencies
Severe zinc deficiency is not very common, in particular in developed countries, but many people in the United States have marginal zinc deficiency, especially elderly persons.
Decreased or insufficient dietary intake of zinc
One big reason for zinc deficiency is the lack of zinc in many people’s diets. In the US, it is estimated that 75% of people get less than 15 mg of zinc per day, while half get less than 8 mg each day. [Haas]
An average diet, in particular those which are low in protein, contains only 9 mg to 13 mg of zinc each day. Some surveys have also revealed that average zinc intakes range from 47% to 67% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).
With soil depletion due to modern farming methods, agricultural soils worldwide now contain lower levels of zinc than they used to. Chemical fertilizers, for example, reduce zinc levels in soil. In the United States, some 30 states have zinc-deficient soil. Lowered levels of zinc in soils translate to lower levels of zinc in the foods grown on them.
Then there is nutrient loss due to food processing. For example, when grains are processed and refined, much of the zinc in them is lost, along with other nutrients like the B vitamins, chromium, manganese and molybdenum.
Zinc is water soluble, so canning foods or cooking them in water can also result in zinc being removed from them.
Specific eating habits
A person’s zinc levels could be lowered by the consumption of fiber, which leads to the excretion of zinc via the intestinal tract.
Compounds called phytates bind with zinc and prevent its proper absorption by the body; such compounds are found in grains and legumes.
Drinking of hard water also affects zinc levels. Quite a lot of zinc is actually removed from the body via perspiration.
In addition, strict vegetarians and people who consume a lot of grain and little animal protein could be taking in too little zinc as well.
High intake of copper lowers zinc levels in the body. Thus, increased copper intake – this could include through water, food, supplements, or birth control pills – could lead to zinc deficiency.
The change of water pipes from those containing zinc and iron to ones which contain copper is a contributing factor to the increase in zinc deficiency incidence – this not only lowers zinc intake, but also increases copper intake, which then interferes with the absorption of zinc. A double whammy.
Here is a more comprehensive listing of some possible diet-related causes of zinc deficiency:
* Low zinc content in foods arising from low zinc soils these days
* Low zinc content in processed and refined foods, a common fixture of modern-day diets
* Diets high in fiber, phytates, clay, alcohol or phosphates – these affect zinc absorption by binding to it
* Protein deficiencies
* A diet high in copper
* Dietary intake of high calcium:zinc ratio
* Dietary intake of high iron:zinc ratio
* Fasting or starvation
* Anorexia nervosa
* Fad diets
* Consumption of chelating agents
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