Zinc is by far the most important mineral when it comes to skin health. In Australia, it is also the mineral that we are most deficient of.
Diet often contributes to zinc deficiency. A national random dietary survey in Australia found that 85% of women and 65% of men do not receive the RDA for zinc in their diets. (12) Sub-optimal levels of zinc are common at all ages, but the elderly are especially at risk.
What Functions Does Zinc Have?
- Improve and support immune function
- Assist with Acne
- Improve rosacea
- Assist with DNA and Growth -Assisting wound and injury healing
- Help to maintain healthy skin and hair
- Promote hair growth
Zinc deficiency symptoms
Skin signs of zinc deficiency
Others symptoms related to the skin health and zinc include diarrhoea, emotional disturbances. Long term diarrhoea can have an impact on the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the diet. Emotional disturbances, such as stress, can be major triggers for skin and hair problems.
Zinc Deficiency Questionnaire
2 Types of Zinc Deficiency
Zinc deficiency can be divided into 2 types. First acrodermatitis enteropathica which is believed to be related to defective genes that code the zinc transporter. This can be seen in new born babies who have skin problems. Secondly, an acquired form of zinc deficiency can occur that relates to diet and lifestyle.12
Dietary causes of Zinc deficiency include inadequate intake due to ;
- low zinc containing diets, especially in vegetarians due to low animal protein
- consumption of processed foods that have lost the zinc during production;
- poor diet contributing to a poor nutritional intake
- consumption of foods that contain phytic acid (grains, nuts, seeds, beans) or fibers that contain zinc absorption inhibitors
The lack of zinc in our diet can affect our body’s zinc levels. Our ability to absorb minerals will vary from one person to the other however. The availability of zinc in our body’s can be affected by:
- abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract. This can include malabsorption syndromes such as liver disease, Inflammatory bowel disease or short bowel syndrome;
- abnormalities in transportation;
- substances that interfere with zinc absorption such as drugs.
Improving Immune Function for Healthy Skin
Acne treatment and zinc deficiency
A study of 96 people with mild to moderate acne, looked at the levels of Vitamin A, E and zinc. It found that zinc and vitamin E were significantly lower than in the control group. The researchers concluded that supportive treatment for acne should include vitamins and zinc.
Another study looked at the affect of zinc sulphate in 56 patients with acne vulgaris. Patients were given daily zinc sulphate whilst others were given a placebo. The placebo group showed no improvement after 12 weeks. The group taking the zinc sulphate however had a statistically significant decrease in the number of papules, infiltrates and cysts. Interestingly in the zinc treated group, there was also an increase in their vitamin A levels. 1
Acne in females commonly occurs in conjunction with PCO’s – a health condition with raised androgens. Another in vivo study revealed that at high concentrations, zinc could completely inhibit the enzyme activity that contributes to excessive androgens. Thus it could be an effective agent in the treatment of androgen related pathology of human skin. 8
Assisting wound and Injuries and Wound Healing
A zinc deficiency can significantly impair the body’s ability to heal itself. Very often it is found that in people who have slow wound healing, there is a zinc deficiency. Identifying the need for and supplementing with zinc by doing a Zinc Tally Test, completing the questionnaire, or for more exact information, have a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, can therefore be very useful.
One study looked at the effects of giving zinc sulphate to 46 severely burned patients and the effect it had on their wound healing. The results found that in comparison to a control group who had the same severity of burns, the patients taking zinc were cured 8 days earlier. 5
Skin and hair problems
1. Verma KC, Saini AS, Dhamija SK. Oral zinc sulphate therapy in acne vulgaris: a double-blind trial. Acta Derm Venereol. 1980;60(4):337-40 2. Leigh DA. Prostatitis–an increasing clinical problem for diagnosis and management. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1993 Jul;32 Suppl A:1-9
3. Neve HJ, Bhatti WA, Soulsby C, Kincey J, Taylor TV.Reversal of Hair Loss following Vertical Gastroplasty when Treated with Zinc Sulphate.Obes Surg. 1996 Feb;6(1):63-65.
4. Slonim AE, Sadick N, Pugliese M, Meyers-Seifer CH.Clinical response of alopecia, trichorrhexis nodosa, and dry, scaly skin to zinc supplementation.J Pediatr. 1992 Dec;121(6):890-5.
5. Han CM. [Changes in body zinc and copper levels in severely burned patients and the effects of oral administration of ZnSO4 by a double-blind method] Zhonghua Zheng Xing Shao Shang Wai Ke Za Zhi. 1990 Jun;6(2):83-6, 155
6. Young B, Ott L, Kasarskis E, Rapp R, Moles K, Dempsey RJ, Tibbs PA, Kryscio R, McClain C. Zinc supplementation is associated with improved neurologic recovery rate and visceral protein levels of patients with severe closed head injury. J Neurotrauma. 1996 Jan;13(1):25-34
7. Pennington JA, Schoen SA. Total diet study: estimated dietary intakes of nutritional elements, 1982-1991. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1996;66(4):350-628.
9. http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/section1/chapter4/4e.htm10. Evans GW. Normal and abnormal zinc absorption in man and animals: the tryptophan connection. Nutr Rev 1980;38(4):137-14111.
10. Prasad AS. Clinical, biochemical and nutritional spectrum of zinc deficiency in human subjects, an update. Nutr Rev 1983;41(7):19712.
11. Baghurst KI, Droesti, IE, Syrette JA, Record SJ, Baghurst PA, Buckly RA. Zinc and magnesium status of Australian adults. Nutr Res 1991;11:23-32.
13. Marovt, M and Drogos, V. Acquired zinc deficiency: a case report.Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Panonica Adriat. 2013 Sep;22(3):75-6.14. Ozuguz P, Dogruk Kacar S, Ekiz O, Takci Z, Balta I, Kalkan G. Evaluation of serum vitamins A and E and zinc levels according to the severity of acne vulgaris. Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2013 Jul 5.
14.Mirastschijski U, Martin A, Jorgensen LN, Sampson B, Ågren MS. Zinc, copper, and selenium tissue levels and their relation to subcutaneous abscess, minor surgery, and wound healing in humans. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Jun;153(1-3):76-83. doi: 10.1007/s12011-013-9658-z. Epub 2013 Apr 18.