Zinc

University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Food Science and Human Nutrition Program and Human Nutrition Program

Zinc is a cofactor for over two hundred in the human body and plays a direct role in RNA, DNA, and protein synthesis. Zinc also is a cofactor for enzymes involved in energy metabolism. As the result of its prominent roles in and energy metabolism, a zinc deficiency in infants and children blunts growth. The reliance of growth on adequate dietary zinc was discovered in the early 1960s in the Middle East where adolescent nutritional dwarfism was linked to diets containing high amounts of phytate. Cereal grains and some vegetables contain chemicals, one being phytate, which blocks the absorption of zinc and other in the gut. It is estimated that half of the world’s population has a zinc-deficient diet.[1]

This is largely a consequence of the lack of red meat and seafood in the diet and reliance on cereal grains as the main dietary staple. In adults, severe zinc deficiency can cause hair loss, diarrhea, skin sores, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Zinc is a required cofactor for an enzyme that synthesizes the heme portion of and severely deficient zinc diets can result in anemia.

Dietary Reference Intakes for Zinc

Table 11.4 for Zinc

Age Group RDA(mg/day) UL(mg/day)
Infant (0–6 months) 2* 4
Infants (6–12 months) 3 5
Children (1–3 years) 3 7
Children (4–8 years) 5 12
Children (9–13 years) 8 23
Adolescents (14–18 years) 11 (males), 9 (females) 34
Adults (19 + years) 11 (males), 8 (females) 40
* denotes Adequate Intake

Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: Zinc. National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/. Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed November 10, 2017.

Dietary Sources of Zinc

Table 11.5 Zinc Content of Various Foods

Food Serving Zinc (mg) Percent Daily Value
Oysters 3 oz. 74 493
Beef, chuck roast 3 oz. 7 47
Crab 3 oz. 6.5 43
Lobster 3 oz. 3.4 23
Pork loin 3 oz. 2.9 19
Baked beans ½ c. 2.9 19
Yogurt, low fat 8 oz. 1.7 11
Oatmeal, instant 1 packet 1.1 7
Almonds 1 oz. 0.9 6

Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: Zinc. National Institute of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/. Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed November 10, 2017.


Learning Activities

Technology Note: The second edition of the Human Nutrition Open Educational Resource (OER) textbook features interactive learning activities.  These activities are available in the web-based textbook and not available in the downloadable versions (EPUB, Digital PDF, Print_PDF, or Open Document).

Learning activities may be used across various mobile devices, however, for the best user experience it is strongly recommended that users complete these activities using a desktop or laptop computer and in Google Chrome.

 

 


  1. Prasad, Ananda. (2003). Zinc deficiency.  British Medical Journal, 326(7386), 409–410. doi: 10.1136/bmj.326.7386.409. Accessed October 2, 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1125304/?tool=pmcentrez.

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