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Zinc and vegetarian diets

This is a republished version of an article previously published in MJA Open

Although vegetarians have an overall lower risk of common chronic diseases than non-vegetarians, there are some nutrients, including zinc, that need special attention in those who follow a vegetarian diet. Since plant sources of zinc contain phytate and other inhibitors of zinc absorption, vegetarians and vegans may potentially be at risk of zinc deficiency. We present a review of the evidence about zinc in relation to vegetarians, including the bioavailability of zinc from plant sources. We also consider the body’s adaptive homeostatic mechanisms and what these mean in terms of vegetarians’ zinc status and dietary requirements.

Zinc’s important role

Zinc is a trace mineral abundantly distributed throughout all body tissues and fluids, and second only to iron among trace elements in the body. It is essential for multiple aspects of metabolism, including catalytic, structural and regulatory functions, and also plays an important role in the immune system.1,