Introduction

Zinc is only moderately abundant in nature, ranking 23rd of the elements. Of the trace elements in the body, it is second only to iron, but, in contrast to iron, it has a single redox state. Together with its size and charge characteristics, this has led to its widespread use in proteins of the body. The number of zinc proteins is unknown but growing, and they include numerous enzymes and many more nuclear proteins that regulate gene expression. Further sets of proteins are responsible for zinc homeostasis. The binding sites and functions of zinc within some of these proteins are well understood, but for others these are less clear. In particular, the links between the biochemical roles of zinc within proteins and its physiological functions are often obscure. The range of physiological functions of zinc is broad and can be observed in all tissues of the body. In general, zinc is required for DNA synthesis, cell division and growth, for protein synthesis and macronutrient metabolism, and for the development and appropriate function of most body systems. The lack of an appropriate assessment tool makes it difficult to estimate the prevalence of zinc deficiency, but undiagnosed marginal zinc deficiency may be a concern.

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