Use of serum zinc concentration as an indicator of population zinc status

Food Nutr Bull. 2007 Sep;28(3 Suppl):S403-29. doi: 10.1177/15648265070283S303.


Assessing the prevalence and severity of zinc deficiency in populations is critical to determine the need for and appropriate targeting of zinc intervention programs and to assess their effectiveness for improving the health and well-being of high-risk populations. However, there is very little information on the zinc status of populations worldwide due to the lack of consensus on appropriate biochemical indicators of zinc status. The objective of this review was to evaluate the use of serum zinc concentration as an indicator of population zinc status. We have reviewed the response of serum zinc concentration to dietary zinc restriction and zinc supplementation. In addition, we completed pooled analyses of nine zinc intervention trials in young children to assess the relations between serum zinc concentration of individuals before treatment and their responses to zinc supplementation. Also, in updated combined analyses of previously published data, we investigated the relation between the mean initial serum zinc concentration of a study population and their mean growth responses to zinc supplementation in randomized intervention trials among children. The results from depletion/repletion studies indicate that serum zinc concentrations respond appreciably to severe dietary zinc restriction, although there is considerable interindividual variation in these responses. There is also clear evidence that both individual and population mean serum zinc concentrations increase consistently during zinc supplementation, regardless of the initial level of serum zinc concentration. By contrast, an individual's serum zinc concentration does not reliably predict that person's response to zinc supplementation. Serum zinc concentration can be considered a useful biomarker of a population's risk of zinc deficiency and response to zinc interventions, although it may not be a reliable indicator of individual zinc status.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutritional Status*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Zinc / blood*
  • Zinc / deficiency*
  • Zinc / pharmacokinetics


  • Biomarkers
  • Zinc