More than 300 enzymes in the human body depend on a zinc supply that meets the body's needs. Insufficient zinc intake can therefore be associated with a wide range of symptoms. Common symptoms include poor immune function, problems with wound healing, impaired skin integrity, reduced hair growth, less appetite and loss of taste and smell. Zinc also plays a role in reproductive health, which is why both delayed sexual development and impotence are associated with low zinc levels.
Individual dietary habits are the most common cause of zinc deficiency. Zinc is especially abundant in meat and seafood. Plant foods such as legumes and whole grains also contain zinc, but their absorption is somewhat lower. For this reason, vegetarians and vegans have a 50% higher zinc requirement compared to people with a mixed diet. Other triggers for zinc deficiency can include pregnancy and lactation, excessive alcohol consumption, certain medications, and underlying GI disorders.