inc is a trace element and an es- sential micronutrient for humans. Essential micronutrients are vita- mins and minerals that are re-

quired in small amounts by the body for optimal health. Since the body is unable to synthesize these micronutrients, a di- etary source is necessary.

Early during digestion, zinc ions pres- ent in food release and then are absorbed in the small intestine. About 70% of zinc in circulation is bound to the blood protein albumin. Any conditions that alter the al- bumin concentration, therefore, have a secondary effect on the body’s zinc levels. Low albumin levels occur in conditions in which the body does not properly absorb and digest protein, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, or in diseases where large volumes of protein are lost through diarrhea. The liver synthesizes albumin, so any form of liver inflammation or disease can also negatively affect zinc levels. Approximately half of all the zinc eliminated from the body occurs through the gastrointestinal tract. Some pancreatic secretions are high in zinc, including in- sulin. Certain gastrointestinal diseases and disorders such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and short bowel syndrome can increase the likelihood of zinc deficiency.

Symptoms of both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease usually involve diarrhea and abdominal pain. Because increased motility decreases the success of digestion and absorption, severe diarrhea can result in malabsorption of all nutrients, including zinc. Attempting to avoid disease symp- toms associated with eating might also influence the quantity of food individuals are willing to consume, which further in- creases their risk of deficiencies. Researchers have found that zinc-

deficient animals require 50% more food to obtain the same weight gain as an ani- mal with adequate amounts of zinc. They suggest that humans might react to zinc

deficiency in a similar way. What Does Zinc Do?

• assists in the activity of numerous enzymes

• essential to immune function and wound healing

• aids in DNA synthesis and reproduc- tive development

• maintains sense of taste and smell

• regulates insulin production, storage, and release

• helps produce the active form of vita-

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