Scientists create zinc index for human body to address mineral deficiency

22 November 2021 | News

Mild zinc deficiency could alter gene expression in the body and the intestine's microbial environment is crucial for zinc metabolism image credit- shutterstock image credit- shutterstock

Zinc deficiency is prevalent around the world, and among children, these mineral shortfalls can lead to stunting, embryonic malformations and neurobehavioral abnormalities. 

To accurately calculate from biomarkers the physiological status of a subject, Cornell food scientists in the US have developed a new evaluation method: the Zinc Status Index.

The human body needs zinc to boost immunity, regulate metabolism and to help heal wounds, but more than 1 billion people or about 17% of the global population suffer from dietary zinc deficiency. The World Health Organization asked the world's scientists to create such a robust test to determine accurately if someone is zinc deficient.

"This research presents a significant advancement in the field of zinc nutrition and the associated physiological status. Using the Zinc Status Index will provide a better understanding of the challenges that are linked to poor zinc nutrition, and improve the ability to quantify the impact of dietary interventions aimed at alleviating zinc deficiency", said the researchers.

The Zinc Status Index incorporates a statistical model and hinges on three pillars:

  • The ratio of linolenic acid, a fatty acid, to dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid ratio, another fatty acid known as the LA:DGLA ratio
  • Gene expression of zinc dependent proteins, that are affected by zinc status; and
  • The gut microbiome as an additional tool to reflect zinc physiological status


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