Mild Zinc Deficiency “Common” in the US
Zinc deficiency affects more than 2 billion people in both developing and developed nations.49 Moreover, zinc and iron deficits often go hand in hand.
A diet lacking adequate sources of bioavailable zinc (such as red meat) and high in dietary fiber (vegetarian or grain-based diets) carries a double risk of zinc deficiency. Certain dietary fibers, calcium, and phytates (present in cereal products, legumes, and nuts) effectively block zinc absorption, while lack of beef (the richest natural source of zinc) leads to an inadequate dietary supply of this essential nutrient. Because beef is also the best source of bioavailable iron (except for certain artificially fortified foods), low zinc and low iron often occur simultaneously. Low iron in the bloodstream leads to iron-deficiency anemia, characterized by listlessness in adults and physical and neurological abnormalities in young children.50,51
According to University of Texas researcher Harold Sandstead, data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) suggest that “mild [zinc] deficiency is . . . common in the US.”52 It may well be important, therefore, to supplement one’s diet with zinc on a daily basis. The Institute of Medicine has established a zinc RDA value for men of 11 mg/day. For women, the RDA ranges from 8 mg/day for healthy adult women to 14 mg/day for lactating women. Alcoholism and chronic diarrhea may seriously deplete zinc stores, and evidence suggests that the elderly suffer zinc deficiency more commonly than younger adults.53
Long-term supplementation with high levels of zinc may deplete copper levels.54 Thus, individuals supplementing with zinc may need to supplement concomitantly with copper.
Overwhelming scientific evidence from around the world underscores the critical importance of zinc to human health. Given this preponderance of evidence indicating zinc’s utter indispensability to health—and the widespread prevalence of zinc deficiency—it is prudent to include this potent micronutrient in one’s daily vitamin/mineral regimen.
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