Zinc deficiency in low- and middle-income countries: prevalence and approaches for mitigation

J Hum Nutr Diet. 2020 Oct;33(5):624-643. doi: 10.1111/jhn.12791. Epub 2020 Jul 6.


This review addresses the prevalence of zinc deficiency in Low- and Middle-income Countries (LMICs) and assesses the available strategies for its alleviation. The paucity of national-level data on the zinc deficiency in LMICs is partially a result of the lack of a reliable biomarker. Zinc deficiency appears to be a public health problem in almost all the LMICs, irrespective of the recommended indicators (plasma zinc concentration, dietary zinc adequacy and stunting prevalence) used. Based on plasma/serum zinc concentration (PZC), which is the most appropriate indicator at present, the prevalence of zinc deficiency in LMICs is of concern. Among the 25 countries for which national PZC data were available, 23 had a zinc deficiency prevalence of >20% for at least one physiological group. Zinc supplementation is largely restricted as an adjunct therapy for diarrhoea management in children, and the best platform and the most effective way of preventive zinc supplementation delivery remains to be established. Impact assessment for current zinc fortification programmes in LMICs and the effectiveness of zinc supplementation as part of a multi-micronutrient powder is to be determined. Dietary diversification, though promising for LMICs, is in the nascent stages of development at present. Inclusion of meat and animal products can be an important way of improving zinc status. Programmatic experience with the promotion of home processing techniques to increase absorbable zinc in the diet is lacking. Conventional biofortification techniques are gaining recognition in LMICs; however, transgenic biofortification as a strategy remains controversial.

Keywords: LMIC; deficiency; interventions; micronutrient; strategies; zinc.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Developing Countries / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet, Healthy / methods
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Food, Fortified
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Growth Disorders / etiology
  • Growth Disorders / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Status
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Zinc / blood
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Zinc