The enormous range of biochemical roles for zinc predicts a large number of physiological functions. The physiological roles of zinc may be further extended to include secondary effects mediated by altered food intake and effects on the functions of other nutrients. While the physiological roles for zinc are well described, it is important to note that the connections between the biochemistry and physiology of zinc remain unclear. Thus, in zinc deficiency the specific zinc-sensitive biochemical step leading to altered physiology is usually unknown. This disconnection will become apparent as the physiological roles of zinc are considered. The broad distribution of zinc through the body at the organ, cellular, and even protein levels suggests that the functions of most systems are dependent upon zinc. Its physiological roles become manifest in cases of deficiency, and that framework will be used to discuss the principal functions here.
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