Zinc Deficiency: 5 Potential Symptoms

As an essential mineral, zinc performs various functions in the body from boosting immunity to helping cells divide. While deficiency is not common in the United States, people who suffer from chronic diseases, alcoholism, and eating disorders are at risk compared to other groups. 

But given that the symptoms are quite generic, a deficiency can easily go unnoticed if it does happen to affect you. If you have experienced most of or all of the signs on this list, speak to a medical professional and find out if you need to get your zinc content measured.

1. Skin

Have you noticed that wounds and rashes are not healing as fast as they should? Studies have stated that zinc plays an important role in the normal function of the skin such as the repairing of tissues.

Some studies have also explored whether zinc can be used to treat acne, though dermatologists are divided on how efficient this form of therapy could be.  This has been attributed to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of the mineral, which might help in reducing breakouts for certain individuals.

2. Appetite

Since low levels of the mineral can lead to nausea and affect senses like smell and taste to some degree, a loss of appetite is another possible sign to watch out for. Researchers are not quite certain about the link between zinc deficiency and anorexia in humans as this symptom has only been exhibited in animal studies. 

3. Eyesight

As noted by the American Optometric Association, your body needs zinc in order to transport vitamin A from the liver to the retina. This helps produce melanin i.e. a protective pigment for your eyes.

"Zinc is highly concentrated in the eye, mostly in the retina and choroid, the vascular tissue layer under the retina," the website explained, adding that problems like poor night vision and cloudy cataracts have been linked to the deficiency.

4. Growth

Ananda Prasad, M.D., Ph.D., of Wayne State University emphasized the role of zinc in cell development. This means inadequate levels of zinc can stunt growth, he told Prevention.

In younger age groups, it may lead to problems with hormone production and delayed sexual maturation. Between 9 and 13 years of age, boys and girls must consume 8 milligrams of zinc per day. Past the age of 14, the daily requirement rises to 11 milligrams for boys and 9 milligrams for girls.

5. Mind

Moderate and severe zinc deficiencies have been associated with mood problems. It may be a possibility to consider if a person has been showing signs of irritability and lethargy. One study also found a higher prevalence of zinc deficiency in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder compared to normal populations, though the association is not clearly understood yet.