Zinc is a nutrient that people need to stay healthy. Zinc is found in cells throughout the body. It helps the immune system fight off invading bacteria and viruses. The body also needs zinc to make proteins and DNA, the genetic material in all cells. During pregnancy, infancy, and childhood, the body needs zinc to grow and develop properly. Zinc also helps wounds heal and is important for proper senses of taste and smell.
Zinc deficiency is more prevalent in areas of high cereal and low animal food consumption. The diet may not necessarily be low in zinc, but its bio-availability plays a major role in its absorption. Phytic acid is the main known inhibitor of zinc. Compared to adults, infants, children, adolescents, pregnant, and lactating women have increased requirements for zinc and thus, are at increased risk of zinc depletion.