Zinc: an essential trace element with potential benefits to soldiers

Mil Med. 2005 Dec;170(12):1048-52. doi: 10.7205/milmed.170.12.1048.


Zinc is a trace element known to be an essential nutrient for life. It functions as a cofactor for numerous enzymes, including those involved in DNA and RNA replication and protein synthesis. Soldiers represent a unique population faced with intense metabolic and mental demands, as well as exposure to various immune challenges. Some of these factors may affect their dietary zinc requirements. Although severe zinc deficiency is unlikely to occur, some soldiers may experience less than optimal zinc status because of diminished intake coupled with increased requirements. For those soldiers, supplemental dietary zinc may serve a protective function in numerous disease states affecting modern warfighters. This review highlights the importance of adequate zinc nutriture to soldiers and discusses the potential benefits of supplemental zinc in a number of diseases currently affecting soldiers, including diarrhea, respiratory diseases, malaria, and leishmaniasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Humans
  • Military Medicine
  • Military Personnel*
  • Trace Elements
  • Zinc / deficiency*
  • Zinc / immunology


  • Trace Elements
  • Zinc