Recognize and prevent zinc deficiency in good time

Recognize and prevent zinc deficiency in good time
Recognize and prevent zinc deficiency in good time

On average, there are only 2 grams of zinc in our bodies – so no need to take a closer look, right? Not correct!

Zinc is one of the most important trace elements for humans. It is involved in almost all life processes and is part of numerous enzymes.

However, the body cannot produce zinc itself and can only store it in small quantities.

This is how much zinc the body needs

According to the German Nutrition Society, the reference values ​​for adults are:

  • Men: between 11 and 16 mg per day
  • Women: between 7 and 10 mg per day

These values ​​are measured depending on the individual phytate intake. Because phytate binds zinc in the gastrointestinal tract and thus prevents absorption.

These groups of people should pay particular attention to their zinc requirements

In addition to phytate, other factors also make it difficult to adequately cover the zinc requirement. Some groups of people should check their zinc needs regularly:

  • Vegetarians and vegans on a plant-based diet often have high levels of phytate. Because it occurs mainly in whole grain cereals, oatmeal, legumes and nuts.
  • The zinc intake can be disturbed in people with intestinal diseases or intolerance.
  • In addition, pregnant women and nursing mothers should consider an increased need.
  • The zinc intake is limited in people who consume a lot of alcohol.
  • Competitive athletes need an increased zinc supply.

We spoke to the doctor Dr. Tobias Weigl talked about the most common symptoms, self-tests and the needs of athletes.

Dr. Dr. Tobias Weigl

The doctor and pain researcher Dr. Tobias Weigl explains clinical pictures, symptoms and treatment options in an understandable way on his website. In addition, he runs a YouTube channel and wants to disseminate important health information.

Causes of a zinc deficiency

A zinc deficiency can have different causes. If an inherited deficiency is excluded, the following reasons, among others, can lead to it:

  • One-sided or malnutrition: If you don’t eat a varied enough diet or you rarely use fresh food, you run the risk of a deficiency.
  • An excess of calcium prevents zinc absorption due to chemical reactions and can displace the trace element from the intestinal wall during absorption.
  • Too much iron and copper also reduce zinc absorption.

If you don’t have a healthy gut, are vegan or do excessive exercise, you should also have your blood values ​​checked regularly. Because here, too, a zinc deficiency can arise more easily.

Symptoms and consequences of zinc deficiency

If you want to recognize a deficiency, the difficulty with zinc is that there is no clear symptom.

“Because zinc influences the protein, fat and sugar metabolism and is involved in cell growth. As a cofactor of more than 300 enzymes, zinc helps break down alcohol in the liver and break down lactic acid that builds up in muscles after we have exercised, ”explains Dr. Weigl.

In addition, zinc contributes to the hormonal balance and of course has a decisive influence on the immune system, which can only work properly with an adequate zinc supply.

In the case of a deficiency, “in addition to problems with skin and hair, for example, the susceptibility to infection can be increased due to the weakened immune system. Fertility can also be restricted because the formation of testosterone only works with zinc. This can be seen, among other things, in a lack of desire to have children as well as a weaker libido or potency ”, says Dr. Weigl.

Overview of symptoms

Here are the most important signs of a deficiency at a glance:

Irritated skin as a symptom of zinc deficiency


Irritated skin as a symptom of zinc deficiency

  • Skin problems: e.g. B. acne, flaky / dry skin, inflammation
  • impaired wound healing
  • brittle hair and nails
  • increased susceptibility to colds and infections
  • dry eyes and blurred vision
  • Taste and smell disorders
  • lower libido and fertility
  • persistent tiredness and general exhaustion
  • Difficulty concentrating

Prevent zinc deficiency

1. Foods rich in zinc in the diet

Nuts and seeds in wooden bowls


The alpha and omega of prevention is: varied nutrition! This enables healthy people to adequately fill their zinc balance. A selection of the following foods should be a regular part of your diet as they are high in zinc:

  • Lean red meat
  • Offal
  • Cheese, e.g. B. Edamer and Gouda
  • Whole grains and oatmeal
  • Nuts and seeds, e.g. B. Peanuts and sunflower seeds
  • Legumes, e.g. B. Lenses

Those who eat plant-based foods can reduce the phytate content somewhat by germinating, roasting and soaking the plants and thus making the zinc supply easier.

2. Dietary supplements for zinc deficiency

Zinc can also be taken in through dietary supplements. It should be noted that, according to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the maximum amount of 6.5 mg per day should not be exceeded. This value already takes into account the intake from conventional foods.

The consumer advice center points out that there is still no clear evidence that increased zinc intake improves body functions and protects against colds. If you are unsure whether an additional zinc supply makes sense, a doctor can help.

Buy superfood mix with zinc online

3. Self-tests as a regular check-up

Anyone who would like to have initial information about the state of their own body can take a self-test at home.

“It is not yet possible to make a final, unequivocal judgment on the reliability of these tests – there are simply no independent, large-scale studies in which the informative value of the tests is compared with that of conventional blood samples,” explains Dr. Weigl.

The problem here is probably that the tests themselves have to be carried out correctly, and even small things can falsify the result.

“Such tests – regardless of whether they are healthy or previously ill – do not replace routine examinations or a specific diagnosis by a trained doctor in the event of illness. However, these tests already offer sensible incentives and can be particularly interesting when it comes to nutritional issues. “

Increased zinc requirement during sport

Athletes increasingly need zinc for regeneration, for muscle building, for defense against infections and for stressful competitions. They also lose the trace element through sweat and kidneys or urine. In sweat, the loss of zinc is around 1 mg / liter.

Overall, the zinc losses due to intense physical activity increase approximately 2 to 3 times, which is why a guideline value of 25-50 mg zinc per day is recommended for high-performance athletes, depending on the sporting activity.

“As a rule, however, the increased demand can still be met even in high-performance sport through increased food intake,” says Dr. Weigl.

In order to promote zinc absorption, one should rely on mixed foods and can combine whole grain cereal products with dairy products or citric acid, for example. A vegetarian diet also covers athletes’ zinc requirements.

Important note: The information in this article is for general guidance only. To clarify a health problem, we recommend visiting trained and recognized doctors.

Hide sources


Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (2021): Updated maximum quantity proposals for vitamins and minerals in dietary supplements and fortified foods, accessed on September 6, 2021ösungenvorschlaege-fuer-vitamine-und- minerals-in-nutritional-supplements-and-fortified-foods.pdf

German Nutrition Society (2019): Selected questions and answers about zinc, accessed on November 9, 2020

FH Münster (2019): Too little zinc ?, accessed on November 9, 2020

Associations for independent health advice (2007): Can competitive athletes meet their zinc needs?

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