Health Matters

Blood Zinc Level - Is it Really a Good Measure of Zinc Deficiency?


A nutrition patient attended our clinic recently with numerous symptoms. This included reflux, oesophageal inflammation and mucus accumulations, chronic sore mouth and throat, taste and voice changes, difficulty breathing, dry eyes, continual anxiety and agitation, mild depression, inability to exercise, severe insomnia and daytime fatigue, low lymphocytes, dry-eye, and significant weight-loss. Medical investigations had been unable to determine any cause.

The patient admitted to having a strict vegan diet for some years, in an attempt to improve previously diabetic blood sugar levels. Veganism, however, significantly increases risk of zinc deficiency. Even so, research shows that 66-90% adults today have inadequate zinc intake with wide-ranging health effects.

Many of the symptoms exhibited by this patient are associated with inadequate systemic zinc yet blood-serum-zinc levels were normal. Could this patient have a normal serum zinc but still have zinc deficiency?

Reduced or altered taste sensation is an indicator zinc deficiency. In 2004, researchers divided patients with taste impairments into two groups based on whether their blood-serum-zinc levels were normal or low. They compared them to volunteers with normal taste-sensation, additionally using an alternative test (the ‘apo-ACE/holo-ACE’ ratio) to determine zinc sufficiency/deficiency of all participants.

In a further study, all patients with taste-sensation changes were then given zinc supplements. All patients had significant improvements in taste-sensation and this improvement correlated with improved ACE ratio, but not with blood-serum zinc levels.

Researchers concluded that ‘zinc deficiency is a predominant factor underlying taste impairment and ACE ratio may be a more sensitive indicator of zinc nutrition than blood-serum-zinc concentration’. In short, serum-zinc-level which is the main test currently used in clinical practice is a poor tool for determining zinc deficiency.

With the approval of the patient’s general practitioner, the patient’s dietary pattern was changed to one that provided excellent levels of all important nutrients (including zinc). They were given some supplements to help correct key nutrient deficits quickly, and symptoms resolved over the next 3 months. If you have a chronic condition that you’ve had difficulty resolving, feel free to give the clinic a call.


Article Written + Submitted by:

Andreas Klein Nutritionist + Remedial Therapist from Beautiful Health + Wellness
P: 0418 166 269

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