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Plant and Soil

, Volume 361, Issue 1–2, pp 291–299 | Cite as

Zinc deficiency and human health: etiology, health consequences, and future solutions

  • Rosalind S GibsonEmail author
Regular Article

Abstract

Aims

Multiple functions in the human body are affected by zinc deficiency. Here the etiology, assessment, health consequences, and intervention strategies for human zinc deficiency are discussed.

Methods

A literature review was conducted to identify papers on the topics itemized using electronic databases.

Results

A major factor in the etiology of zinc deficiency is inadequate intakes, followed by physiological states increasing requirements, and pathological conditions resulting in poor absorption, excessive losses, or impaired utilization. High risk groups comprise infants, preschoolers, pregnant and lactating women, and the elderly. Zinc deficiency can result in impairments in growth, immune competence, and reproductive function, leading to increased risk of stunting, diarrhea, respiratory diseases, and mortality during childhood, and preterm births in pregnancy. Intervention strategies include supplementation, fortification, dietary diversification/modification, and biofortification, the choice depending on the magnitude of risk, life-stage group, and setting.

Conclusions

Zinc supplementation is recommended for treating acute diarrhea, and for preventing stunting, diarrhea, pneumonia, and mortality in high risk children. Zinc fortified cereals are appropriate for urban households, whereas dietary diversification/modification and biofortification are suitable for the rural poor. For maximum impact, interventions should be integrated with effective public health programs that address underlying causes of zinc deficiency.

Keywords

Supplementation Fortification Dietary diversification Biofortification Diarrhea Respiratory diseases Children pregnancy Etiological factors 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human NutritionUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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