Role of Zinc in Malnutrition

Special Article - Malnutrition

Ann Nutr Disord & Ther. 2016; 3(1): 1029.

Role of Zinc in Malnutrition

Mittal P* and Dipti B

Department of Paediatrics, Govt Medical College & Rajindra Hospital, India

*Corresponding author: Mittal Parveen, Department of Pediatrics, Govt Medical College & Rajindra Hospital, 37, Khalsa College Colony, Patiala 147001, India

Received: August 04, 2016; Accepted: October 03, 2016; Published: October 05, 2016


Malnutrition is a globally prevalent disease, more so in the developing countries. It includes both macronutrient and micronutrient or trace element deficiency. Of late, zinc has been recognized as an essential trace element, required for maintaining normal body homeostasis. Zinc deficiency is associated with growth retardation (height and weight), delayed sexual and bone maturation, impaired immune function, recurrent infections, dermatitis, diarrhoea, alopecia, anorexia and mental disturbances. Serum zinc levels have been found to be low in protein energy malnutrition globally. Zinc supplementation during the rehabilitation phase of malnutrition has been associated with rapid weight gain.

Keywords: Malnutrition; Protein energy malnutrition; Zinc supplementation; Zinc deficiency


WHO: World Health Organisation; UNICEF: United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, PEM: Protein Energy Malnutrition.


Malnutrition is defined by WHO (World Health Organization) as “the cellular imbalance between the supply of nutrients and energy and the body’s demand for them to ensure growth, maintenance, and specific functions”. It not only includes deficiency of calories and proteins, but also micronutrient deficiency [1].

Micronutrients are the nutrients required by organisms throughout life in small quantities to perform a range of physiological functions [2]. They do not serve as energy stores but are important in cellular metabolism and are related to enzyme systems where they act either as cofactors for metal ion activated enzymes or as specific constituents of metallo-enzymes, bodily functions and in protection of the body against oxidative damage. The various micronutrients include Vitamin A, iodine, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B complex and vitamin C.

Among all micronutrients, zinc is the latest and upcoming one, having various roles in the body. Of late, it has been proven to have a very important role in growth and development, its deficiency leading to growth retardation and various other problems. Despite a large amount of zinc present in some tissues (maximum in prostate, followed by bones, liver, muscle, kidney and then by adrenals, brain, testes, spleen and lung) zinc exchange between them is limited and supply of zinc for tissue growth and repair is dependent on continuous external supply [3].


To compile the past and present information about the role of zinc in malnutrition.


The methodology involved review of articles retrieved on Google Scholar, Pubmed, Medline, Cochrane database and Medscape ( using “role of zinc”, “zinc deficiency” “zinc in malnutrition” “zinc supplementation”), restricted to English language.

Recommended dietary allowance, absorption and sources of zinc

Recommended dietary allowance: Refer Table 1 below [4].

Citation: Mittal P and Dipti B. Role of Zinc in Malnutrition. Ann Nutr Disord & Ther. 2016; 3(1): 1029. ISSN : 2381-8891