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Carence en zinc : quels risques pour la santé ?

Zinc Deficiency: What Are the Health Risks?

Zinc plays an essential role in the body. In the human body, this trace element modulates the activity of nearly 200 different proteins. In dermatology, this antioxidant affects the skin, hair and nails. A zinc deficiency has numerous effects on the body. Here is an overview of the health risks of a zinc deficiency.

A Brief Introduction to Zinc

Zinc is a metal particle with the symbol "Zn" and atomic number 30 in the periodic table of elements. In metalworking, it is a component of brass (zinc and copper), but is also present in the human body in small amounts (just under 2-3 g), distributed among muscles, bones, liver and skin. It is involved in DNA synthesis, ensures the production of certain proteins and contributes to the balance of cognitive functions. It is a trace element that the body needs for its proper functioning. Since zinc is not produced by the body itself, it must be supplied to it through food.

The Reasons for a Natural Zinc Deficiency

This trace element cannot be produced by the body. Therefore, regular consumption of foods containing zinc is essential to benefit from its advantages. The food richest in zinc is oysters, but there are other foods such as intestines, red meat, whole-grain bread and eggs.

With an adapted and balanced diet, there is usually no need to worry about deficiencies. On the other hand, an unbalanced or even poor diet can lead to a zinc deficiency. In addition, other factors can also cause such a deficiency:

  • Certain medications and foods also lead to a zinc deficiency. These include, for example, the contraceptive pill, cortisone-containing drugs, cola or lemonade.

  • In addition to these substances, some diseases also reduce zinc levels in the body. These include diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel pain and high blood pressure.

  • Zinc deficiency can also result from excessive alcohol and tobacco consumption.

  • Excessive stress also promotes this deficiency, as does excessive sweating during physical activity.

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding are often associated with a reduction in zinc levels in the body.

What Are the Health Consequences of Zinc Deficiency?

Zinc deficiency is rare in France, but still occurs among some people. The main symptoms of such a deficiency are:

  • a lack of alertness

  • a reduction in the sense of taste and smell

  • an unexplained loss of weight

  • wounds that do not heal

  • diarrhea

  • a loss of appetite

  • open sores on the skin

  • sexual impotence (erectile dysfunction) in men

It should be noted that zinc is distributed in trace amounts throughout the cells of your body, making it difficult to detect a zinc deficiency through a simple blood test. If your doctor suspects a zinc deficiency, he or she will need to analyze blood plasma to get an accurate result. Other tests for zinc deficiency include urinalysis and analysis of a strand of hair to measure zinc levels.

Zinc deficiency is rare in France, but still occurs among some people. The main symptoms of such a deficiency are:

  • a lack of alertness

  • a reduction in the sense of taste and smell

  • an unexplained loss of weight

  • wounds that do not heal

  • diarrhea

  • a loss of appetite

  • open sores on the skin

  • sexual impotence (erectile dysfunction) in men

It should be noted that zinc is distributed in trace amounts throughout the cells of your body, making it difficult to detect a zinc deficiency through a simple blood test. If your doctor suspects a zinc deficiency, he or she will need to analyze blood plasma to get an accurate result. Other tests for zinc deficiency include urinalysis and analysis of a strand of hair to measure zinc levels.

Zinc Deficiency: What Are the Consequences for Hair, Nails and Skin?

As for hair, these fibers are rich in a protein called keratin. Zinc plays an important role in the synthesis of this protein. Therefore, a deficiency of this mineral has numerous effects on the hair. One direct consequence is hair loss. The hair loses its shine and luminosity. They become thin, dull and brittle.

Like hair, nails are also mainly composed of keratin. Zinc deficiency weakens their growth and maintenance. In addition to the formation of small white spots on the nails, they also become soft, wrinkled and brittle.

In the skin, zinc deficiency usually leads to various manifestations.

  • In the area of the lips, inflammatory lesions may occur. The skin lesions are initially vesicular and later become crusty and erosive. They are uncomfortable and sometimes painful.

  • Zinc is one of the strong antioxidants and neutralizes free radicals. It protects the skin from UV rays, pigment disorders and oxidative stress. Therefore, zinc deficiency compromises the skin barrier and skin aging is accelerated.

  • Zinc is also involved in the differentiation of keratinocytes. It is these that remove dead cells from the epidermis through their renewal. A zinc deficiency therefore leads to sallow skin.

  • Since zinc plays a role in cell division, it is also involved in wound healing. A zinc deficiency can therefore affect the healing of wounds and inflamed areas such as acne pimples.

Sources

  • Public health statement for zinc. (2005, August).

  • Raijer, J. (2000) Relationship between testosterone and erectile dysfunction. Reviews in Urology, 2(2), 122-128.

  • Zinc, fact sheet for professionals. (2013, June).

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