Groups at Elevated Risk of Zinc Deficiency

In accordance with age and physiological status, some population groups have increased daily physiological requirements for absorbed zinc. The incorporation of zinc in new tissues being synthesized such as occurs during growth and pregnancy or the secretion of zinc in breast milk during lactation require that relatively larger amounts of zinc are absorbed daily. These increased needs for zinc increase the challenge of acquiring sufficient amounts of absorbable zinc from the food supply. Those groups with higher zinc requirements and who are thus at elevated risk of zinc deficiency include:

• infants (particularly those born prematurely);

• children recovering from severe malnutrition;

• adolescents; and

• pregnant and lactating women.

At least some evidence exists for the occurrence of zinc deficiency among each of these groups in developing country settings. The elderly may also be at elevated risk of zinc deficiency, due to a decline in adequacy of zinc intakes and possibly a reduction in the absorption of dietary zinc. However, evidence for zinc deficiency among the elderly has thus far only been derived from industrialized countries; elderly populations have not been the subject of study of zinc deficiency in developing countries.

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