Zinc deficiency: Cracked or peeling lips is a sign – other signs include hair loss

Dr Zoe reveals which supplements to take

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The NHS says zinc helps with making new cells and enzymes, processing carbohydrate, fat and protein in food and wound healing. The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust says because zinc affects so many systems in the body, there is no single distinct symptom of zinc deficiency.

The health body says some of the more common symptoms include loss of or diminished smell and taste, poor wound healing, hair loss, roughening of skin, rashes, low libido in men, canker sores, lethargy, and deformed nails.

It states: “If symptoms progress, there can be serious immune problems, severe diarrhoea, severe hair loss (even total), loss of night vision, and significant rash around the mouth and genitals.”

It says other symptoms of zinc deficiency include infections, especially skin, respiratory, GI and urinary.

Some people also experience metallic taste in the mouth, lip fissures, cracked or peeling lips, anorexia and loss of appetite.

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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says when zinc deficiency does occur, it is usually due to inadequate zinc intake or absorption, increased losses of zinc from the body, or increased requirements for zinc.

The NHS says the amount of zinc you need is about 9.5mg a day for men aged 19 to 64 years and 7mg a day for women.

The health body says you should be able to get all the zinc you need from your daily diet.

Although some people choose to take supplements, it is never advised to take more than you have been advised to by a doctor.

Indeed, taking high levels of zinc may lead to a copper deficiency.

The health body says: “Taking high doses of zinc reduces the amount of copper the body can absorb. This can lead to anaemia and weakening of the bones.”

The Mayo Clinic says zinc is a nutrient found throughout your body, which helps your immune system and metabolism function.

Zinc is also important to wound healing and your sense of taste and smell.

The NHS states: “With a varied diet, your body usually gets enough zinc. Food sources of zinc include chicken, red meat and fortified breakfast cereals.

“People use oral zinc to help treat colds, but it can decrease the effectiveness of certain drugs and cause side effects.”

It continues: “When oral zinc is taken long term and in high doses it can cause copper deficiency.”

It adds: “People with low copper levels might experience neurological issues, such as numbness and weakness in the arms and legs.”

The NHS says good sources of zinc include:

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy foods
  • Bread
  • Cereal products.

The Department of Health and Social Care advises if you take zinc supplements, do not take too much as this could be harmful.

It states: “Do not take more than 25mg of zinc supplements a day unless advised to by a doctor.”

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