Zinc – Signs of Deficiency

zinc nails

Signs of Zinc Deficiency

Deficiency, or insufficiency symptoms associated with zinc include: white spots on the nails (if it’s only on one nail you probably just banged your finger!), slow healing, scarring, atopic dermatitis, loss of appetite, loss of taste (hypgeusia), low immunity, mood instability, and depression (particularly postnatal depression, so watch out Alicia Silverstone!). If you only ate potatoes, refined flour products and sugar, and consumed no meat, dairy, or eggs then you’re pretty likely to develop a zinc deficiency pronto. Obviously most vegans eat some fruit, nuts, seeds, and other grains besides refined flour so the situation isn’t as dire as many anti-vegan dieticians make out.

How Zinc Deficiency Develops

With a daily intake of 15mg bodily zinc turnover will occur every 4.5-5months. A 10mg intake would have a 7mth turnover period. This means that a zinc deficiency would potentially take this long to both appear and disappear once treatment started.

Zinc Deficiency in Men

Some specific signs of zinc deficiency in men include impaired sperm production, defective sperm, sterility, testicular lesions and low weight. With around 100mg of zinc lost in each ejaculation it’s worth thinking about your zinc levels if you’re a little trigger happy and have signs of deficiency. Oysters are not known as an aphrodisiac for nothing fellas.

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms

A veritable smorgasbord of symptoms and conditions are related to zinc deficiency, or have been associated with deficiency throughout the years, including:

  • Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
  • Lethargy
  • Alcoholism (which can also cause deficiency!)
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypertension
  • Premenstrual Tension (PMT)
  • Cold extremities
  • Impaired blood-sugar control and insulin response
  • Impaired cartilage formation
  • Poor bone mineralisation
  • Slow wound/ulcer healing
  • Stretch marks
  • Dermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Hypogeusia
  • White spots on multiple nails
  • Acne
  • Night blindness
  • Intestinal lesions
  • Thickening of the oesophagus
  • Diarrhoea
  • Cancer
  • Anorexia

Mental Health and Zinc Deficiency

There are also a variety of zinc deficiency symptoms that are more associated with mental, cognitive, and emotional health problems, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Depression
  • Criminality!
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Amnesia
  • Memory impairment
  • Dyslexia
  • Schizophrenia

Monitoring Zinc Intake

Zinc, of course, is just one of many minerals needed by the body and the balance of these can be as important as gaining sufficient amounts in the diet. The zinc/copper ratio, for example, is implicated in a variety of problems including PMS, depression, and even schizophrenia. Zinc is also favoured by some bacterial species, including the Lyme disease bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato it seems, which can mean that restricting zinc intake, rather than boosting it when feeling under the weather could be the wisest course of action. Naturally, however, you would want to consult with a naturopath or general medical doctor before trying to treat yourself for a potential infection or other ailment.

A variety of vegan zinc-rich foods exist and there are numerous zinc supplements available, with or without accompanying copper and other macro and microminerals. For vegans and non-vegans alike, knowing how to spot the signs of low zinc levels is key to quickly addressing zinc deficiency symptoms.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kias February 16, 2012 at 06:02

thanks for the info.. I’ve been vegan for over 2 years and just had a blood test for the first time. I came back with an (al)most perfect bill of health. the only problem was a low white blood cell count… but I went to the doctor for a sore throat and then got a blood test..so it is probably just from the throat infection.. but it got me looking up zinc and its role in the immune system.. fascinating stuff! I was considering buying zinc supplements today but opted for pumpkin kernels… as I’ve read they are zinc-rich.. but looking at charts, it seems even if I finished this 120gram pack of seeds each day I’d only be getting around half the necessary intake… hmmm.. I eat lots of nuts, fruits and vegetables.. so perhaps don’t even have a zinc deficiency, but nonetheless would like to find a reliable vegan source :) Thanks for all the info. P.S Paracelsus named zinc in the 1500′s, he was an alchemist.

Les May 17, 2012 at 23:49

Hi,
many thanks for your information regarding lack of Zinc.. I am a 50 year old male who has had white specks on my nails my whole life. I started taking zinc tablets and almost instantly they stopped appearing, after 2 months all the spots had grown out. As a test I stopped taking them for a couple of weeks and a few have started to appear.. So I am now back on a daily tablet and no more are forming.. Its not just my nails, I wonder what other effects the lack of zinc has on my body that I cannot see..

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