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Zinc: Undertsanding the Critical Nature of Zinc and Zinc Deficiency in Alcoholism

Zinc: Understanding the Critical Nature of Zinc and Zinc Deficiency in Alcoholism

Article At A Glance:

In this article, we will look to discuss the importance of Zinc in the body and highlight some of the major roles it plays. We will also discuss some potential causes of Zinc deficiency, Signs of deficiency and various ways to test and dose accordingly to restore Zinc levels.

Zinc is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes throughout the body, all of which play a role in almost every major metabolic pathway, making Zinc pretty important. Like Magnesium, Zinc deficiency is also prevalent in today’s society, with Zinc intake from complementary diets in Australia and NZ showing to be below the RDI [1]. This deficiency stems from various dietary factors including malabsorption syndromes such as coeliac disease, alcoholism and even from various vegan and vegetarian diets.

The Role of Zinc in the body

As we’ve briefly discussed, Zinc is required for a significant amount of major chemical reaction through-out various bodily systems including skin, gastrointestinal, immune, skeletal, reproductive and the central nervous systems [2]. Like Magnesium, the list is fairly expensive when it comes to the role it has in the body, so let’s briefly highlight a few key mechanisms.

  • Gene Transcription – This involves the formation and stabilization of cell DNA, RNA, and various cell proteins [3].
  • Cell Membrane Protection – Zinc helps to stabilize cell membranes and protects cells against oxidative damage [3][4].
  • Reproductive Health – Zinc is essential for spermatogenesis, otherwise known as the formation of sperm cells. It’s also involved in embyro formation and fetal growth [3].
  • Normal Immune Functioning – This includes healthy functioning of the body’s innate immune system including macrophages, neutrophils, and natural killer cells. Your innate immune system is considered your first line of defense when it comes to identifying and attacking foreign cells in the body [5].
  • Wound Healing – Zinc plays a major role in multiple wound healing processes including membrane repair, oxidative stress, coagulation, immune defense regulation, inflammation and scar formation [6].
  • Sleep Regulation – This includes modulation of various neurotransmitters found in the brain, leading to an increase in better sleep quality and a decrease in time falling asleep [7].
  • Cellular Energy – Through various oxidative stress modulating factors, Zinc has shown to be able to restore impaired energetic metabolism in cells, leading to more optimised mitochondrial function, which are the energy power plants of the cell! [8].
  • Skin Health – Zinc is largely involved in skin development through various cell proliferation and differentiation mechanisms, leading to the growth of healthy skin cells [9].

Potential causes of Zinc deficiency

Zinc is estimated to turn over quite quickly in the body, at an estimated 48 hours half-life. Zinc may also be used up faster in the body depending on the level of stress one encounters on a day-to-day basis. In Addition to this, there are some potential causes that may lead to lower levels of Zinc in the body, including:

  • Malabsorption syndromes (Coeliac disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s disease)
  • Alcoholics – Zinc is required for the metabolism of alcohol, and thus, is burned up a lot faster. The consumption of alcohol also impairs various Zinc transporters in the body, which impairs absorption.
  • A diet lacking in Zinc containing foods, which can be common in vegetarian/vegan diets.
  • Diets with a high content of unrefined cereals, nuts, and legumes. These contain phytates, which have a strong binding affinity to Zinc in the gut, inhibiting it’s absorption.
  • Low stomach acid (common in the elderly)
  • Sickle cell disease [10]
  • Pyrroles disorder – A condition that results in an overproduction of pyrroles or “hydroxyhaemopyrrolin-2-one (HPL), which binds to Zinc (and B6) [13] .

Potential Signs of Zinc deficiency

Due to the nature of Zinc being involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions through-out the body, the list of potential deficiency signs can be extensive. This list can vary with age and the severity of the deficiency, too.

In Infants / Children:

  • Skin problems, including dermatitis.
  • Diarrhoea and impaired taste.
  • Various behavioral changes.
  • Anorexia.
  • Growth retardation.
  • Recurrent infections.


  • Abnormal development in skeletal growth.
  • Delayed sexual maturation.
  • Emotional lability & mental disturbances.
  • Immune dysfunction.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Cheilitis (Inflammation of the lips).
  • Eczematous scaly plaques of the skin.
  • Poor healing of wounds.
  • Nail health – Infections, cuticle inflammation, beau lines.
  • Brittle hair.

In some instances, lower levels of Zinc deficiency can be difficult to identify and may require specific testing of biomarkers to more accurately determine Zinc status.

Zinc Testing

Zinc Tally Testing -A common form of testing using a marker of taste acuity to determine Zinc status. Zinc is closely related to sensations of taste, and this method can be used as a guide to highlight a potential Zinc deficiency [11].

Zinc Concentrations – Used to measure the amount of Zinc in the blood, plasma, and urine. A most common method used to determine Zinc status.

Good Food Sources of Zinc

Zinc is primarily found in abundance in shellfish, red meats, and various nuts and seeds, here are some good examples of food sources you could add into your diet to raise your Zinc intake!

Oysters (Approx 6) – 32mg Zinc (other Shellfish are great too)
Red Meat (100g) – 4.8mg Zinc
Hemp Seeds (30g) – 3.8mg Zinc
Cheddar Cheese (100g) – 3mg Zinc
Pumpkin Seeds (30g) – 2.4mg Zinc
Cashews (30mg) – 1.7mg Zinc
Chia Seeds (30g) – 1.4g Zinc
Almonds (30mg) – 1mg Zinc

Zinc Dosages for Zinc Deficiency

Zinc supplementation these days is quite easily accessible and can be acquired quite cost-effectively from your local health shop. Although supplements may use various forms of Zinc preparations, the elemental zinc is what you’re looking for on the label, this is the amount of Zinc found per capsule or tablet.

Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA)
0 to 6 Months – 2mg
7 Months to 3 Years – 3mg
4 to 8 Years  – 5mg
9 to 13 Years – 8mg
14 to 18+ Years – 11mg (boys) 8mg (girls)
Pregnancy – 11mg; Lactation – 12mg

Note, Higher intakes may be required in individuals with certain disorders, such as pyrroles. This is due to the binding of HPL to Zinc, rendering some of it unabsorbable.

Treating a mild Zinc Deficiency
supplementation of Zinc at 2 – 3 times the RDA, up to 6 months of treatment.

Treating a severe Zinc Deficiency
Supplementation of Zinc at 4 – 5 times the RDA, up to 6 months of treatment.

Keep in mind, it is always best to consult with a health care practitioner first, as there can be adverse effects of consuming too much Zinc. The main indicator of too much Zinc is a metallic taste in your mouth, with continued consumption leading to vomiting, abdominal cramping, a decrease in HDL cholesterol levels, suppressed immunity and copper deficiency [12]. 

Zinc Supplementation

Similarly to Magnesium, Zinc is also critical to optimal functioning in any healthy individual.

That being said though, it’s always best to determine if you have a level of Zinc deficiency before supplementation because as mentioned previously, Zinc can be consumed in excess.

A few products recommended in terms of Zinc Supplementation include:


  • Zinc plays a role in almost every major metabolic pathway, making Zinc pretty important.
  • Zinc has a 48-hour half-life in the body, which is depleted faster during high-stress, on-the-go lifestyles.
  • Zinc is critical for Gene Transcription, Cell Membrane Health, Male Reproductive Function, Immunity, Wound Healing and a ton more.
  • Due to Zinc playing a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, potential signs of Zinc deficiency can be quite extensive. Sometimes testing can be your best option to determine the level of Zinc status.
  •  Zinc supplementation these days is quite easily accessible and can be acquired quite cost-effectively from your local health shop.
  • Daily intake is approximately 11mg (males) 8mg (females), and this can be increased depending on the severity of Zinc deficiency.

As always if you have any questions or queries, feel free to get in touch.

All the best in health,
Stephen Brumwell.



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