Feature: Zinc deficiency determined in selected population groups
By Celina Ann Z. Javier
Zinc is an important mineral needed by the body. Its main function in our body is for growth and development, and also for proper immune function. Aside from these, it also plays a role in wound healing and normal sense of taste.
A deficiency in zinc can cause many problems because of its many functions in the body. Some symptoms of the deficiency include hair loss, growth retardation and loss of sense of taste and smell. These symptoms can vary from person to person.
Little is known about the zinc status or the magnitude of zinc deficiency in the Filipino population.
Because of this, a study was done by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) to know the risk of zinc deficiency among the Filipino population. Serum zinc was used to determine the zinc status of the population because it is known as the best biomarker for zinc.
The study aimed to determine the zinc levels and magnitude of deficiency among selected population groups like infants and preschool children six months to five years old, female adolescents 13-19 years old, elderly males and females 60 years old and over, and pregnant women.
Based on the results, the prevalence of zinc deficiency was 21.6 and 20.6 percent, for infants and preschoolers, as well as female adolescents, respectively. The prevalence among pregnant women was 21.5 percent. The elderly males had the highest prevalence at 33.6 percent, while the elderly females had 24.5 percent prevalence.
The prevalence of zinc deficiency was of high magnitude at equal or more than 20 percent among the selected population groups. Of all the population groups included in the study, the elderly had the highest prevalence of zinc deficiency.
The zinc status of these population groups is a public health problem. It must be ensured that the daily nutrient requirement for zinc is always met to avoid metabolic disorders mentioned.
Based on the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intakes (RENI) for Filipinos developed by the FNRI-DOST, each age group has a different requirement for zinc every day.
It is important that the requirement is met to prevent zinc deficiency.
Rich food sources of zinc include milk, meats, poultry, nuts, legumes and whole grain cereals.
But the absorption of zinc can be inhibited by high concentration of fiber and phytates. Fiber is found mainly in fruits and vegetables. On the other hand, phytates are common in legumes and nuts. This compound can bind zinc, thereby inhibiting its absorption.
Strict vegetarians can possibly be at risk for zinc deficiency because of excessive intake of vegetables.
A well-balanced diet consumed in recommended amounts can provide the daily requirements not only for zinc, but for all the nutrients needed by the body.
For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Telefax: 837-2934 and 827-3164, or call: 8372071 local 2296 or visit our website: http://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph. (FNRI-DOST S&T Media Service/PIA-Caraga)