Discovery of human zinc deficiency: 50 years later

J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2012 Jun;26(2-3):66-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jtemb.2012.04.004. Epub 2012 Jun 2.


Essentiality of zinc for humans and its deficiency was recognized in 1963. During the past 50 years, it has become apparent that deficiency of zinc in humans is prevalent. Nutritional deficiency of zinc may affect nearly 2 billion subjects in the developing world. Consumption of cereal proteins high in phytate decreases the availability of zinc for absorption. Conditioned deficiency of zinc is also very common. Growth retardation, hypogonadism in males, rough skin, impaired immunity, neuro-sensory disorder and cognitive impairment are some of the clinical manifestations of zinc deficiency. Zinc is involved in many biochemical functions. Over 300 enzymes require zinc for their activation and nearly 2000 transcription factors require zinc for gene expression. Zinc is essential for cell mediated immunity. Zinc is also an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. In therapeutic dosages, zinc has been used for the treatment of acute diarrhea in infants and children, common cold, Wilson's disease, sickle cell disease and for prevention of blindness in patients with age related macular degeneration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity / physiology
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Male
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Interleukin-2
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Zinc