Zinc is a cofactor for numerous enzymes. It is involved in metabolism and cell growth. Other functions of zinc include sexual maturation, wound healing, appetite, sense of taste and smell and skin integrity.
In the gut, zinc binds to a compound secreted from the pancreas, which helps absorption in the intestine. In the blood, zinc circulates bound to serum protein. Zinc is excreted via the feces, sweat and urine.
The richest sources of zinc include red meats, liver, fish, eggs, milk, nuts and legumes. Although zinc is present in vegetable matter, it is less available as it is bound by phytates which are chemicals found in many of these foods.
A deficiency of zinc may lead to growth faltering, delay in sexual maturation, mental lethargy and skin changes. Zinc also plays a role in maintaining immunity (T-cell function).