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Zinc Deficiency in Women

author image Tara Carson
Based in Richmond, Va., Tara Carson has written articles for editorial and corporate online and print publications for more than 10 years. She has experience as an adjunct professor of nutrition at Northwest Christian University and holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism and nutrition from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Zinc Deficiency in Women
Mother breastfeeding her child in a meadow. Photo Credit NataliaLeb/iStock/Getty Images

Zinc is a mineral that has a wide range of responsibilities in the human body because it dwells in each cell and assists in cellular metabolism required for the execution of numerous functions. Without an adequate amount of zinc, you may experience an impaired sense of taste and smell, slow wound healing, skin rashes and acne and sexual hormone imbalances, and children would not grow and develop normally. Consuming an adequate dietary intake of zinc is particularly important for lactating women and those who may become pregnant because birth defects and deformation in infants and children often stem from zinc deficiency.

Zinc Deficiency in Women

The statistics regarding the number of women who consume an inadequate amount of zinc focus mainly on women who live in developing countries because significant nutritional deficiencies of any type are rare in the United States and other developed countries. There is some information available from the late 20th century and early 21st century from the Institutes of Health and the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" that says most of the cases of zinc deficiency in U.S. women are confined to urban areas and those where cereal grains are the primary source of sustenance. In other words, the urban poor and rural poor in developing countries. Ohio State University reports that in 2000, the average daily intake of zinc for U.S. women was 9 mg per day. The National Institutes of Health recommendation is 8 mg each day.

At-Risk Populations

Acquiring the zinc recommendation each day is not particularly challenging for most people because common foods provide it in the diet, such as poultry, beef, seafood and grains. For women with limited access to food, vegetarians, lactating women, the elderly and gastrointestinal disorder sufferers with malabsorption issues, who are at risk for zinc deficiency, taking a daily multivitamin supplement may be necessary to ensure meeting the daily requirement.

Pregnancy and Lactation Requirement

Pregnant and lactating women need a higher level of zinc compared to standard requirements. Pregnant women older than 18 years require 11 mg each day, according to the National Institutes of Health. The dietary intake recommendation for lactating women is 12 mg. Consequences of zinc deficiency during pregnancy and lactation may include low-birth weight and slow growth and development during infancy, according to researchers at the University of California at Davis in a 2000 review of animal and human studies.

Food Sources

Specific food sources of zinc that supply it in the highest concentration are oysters, baked beans, turkey, crab, lamb, ground beef, lobster, oat bran, ricotta cheese, pork loin, chickpeas and lentils and cornbread. Fortified grains, such as breakfast cereal, enriched flour and rice, often provide a significant zinc level.

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