Purpose of review: Zinc plays an essential role in numerous biochemical pathways. Zinc deficiency affects many organ systems, including the integumentary, gastrointestinal, central nervous system, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems. This article aims to discuss zinc metabolism and highlights a few of the diseases associated with zinc deficiency.
Recent findings: Zinc deficiency results in dysfunction of both humoral and cell-mediated immunity and increases the susceptibility to infection. Supplementation of zinc has been shown to reduce the incidence of infection as well as cellular damage from increased oxidative stress. Zinc deficiency is also associated with acute and chronic liver disease. Zinc supplementation protects against toxin-induced liver damage and is used as a therapy for hepatic encephalopathy in patients refractory to standard treatment. Zinc deficiency has also been implicated in diarrheal disease, and supplementation has been effective in both prophylaxis and treatment of acute diarrhea.
Summary: This article is not meant to review all of the disease states associated with zinc deficiency. Rather, it is an introduction to the influence of the many roles of zinc in the body, with an extensive discussion of the influence of zinc deficiency in selected diseases. Zinc supplementation may be beneficial as an adjunct to treatment of many disease states.