Zinc deficiency was first described in 1961, when it was found to be associated with "adolescent nutritional dwarfism" in the Middle East (Prasad et al. 1961). Deficiency of this mineral is thought to be quite common in infants, adolescents, women, and elderly (Sandstead 1995, Goldenberg et al. 1995, Ma and Betts 2000, Prasad 1996). The most well-known use for zinc supplementation is in treatment of the common cold caused principally by the rhinovirus.

Patients self-medicating with zinc supplements may inadvertently overmedicate themselves with zinc. Signs of zinc toxicity include anemia, neutropenia, cardiac abnormalities, unfavorable lipid profiles, impaired immune function, acute pancreatitis, and copper deficiency (Bratman and Girman 2003, Mikszewski et al. 2003).

Zinc supplements may interfere with the absorption of antibiotics such as tetracyclines, fluoroquinolones, and penicillamine (Bratman and Girman 2003). Zinc should not be ingested within 2 h of antibiotics (Minerals 2000).

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