One-quarter of all Canadians eats a diet that is low in the mineral zinc, according to researchers from McGill University. Zinc plays a key role in immune function where it is needed to develop natural “killer” cells to fight infection. It also has many other functions, including a central role in growth and reproduction.
Lead researcher Dr Fiona Yeudall, a registered dietitian, is particularly concerned about the impact on babies born to mothers whose intake of zinc is low. During pregnancy, zinc needs increase by about one-third. Yet the new dietary data suggests that 26% of teenage girls and 22% of adult women are entering pregnancy at risk for zinc deficiency.
“Zinc deficiency during pregnancy could impair the development of the fetus’ immune system, leaving the infant more susceptible to infections,” explains Yeudall.
Even if taking a zinc supplement, food choices are important, says Yeudall. “To efficiently absorb the zinc from supplements, you need protein from animal sources—such as meat, poultry and fish. Vegetarians actually need up to 50% more zinc in their diet.”
Source: Canada NewsWire, Jan 27, 2003