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Estimated one in five people worldwide lack enough zinc in diet

Up to one-fifth of the world's people lack sufficient zinc in their diet, while an estimated one-third live in countries considered at high risk of zinc deficiency, warns a comprehensive new report by an international group of medical researchers.

The report, by the International Zinc Nutrition Consultative Group (IZiNCG), in collaboration with the United Nations University and the International Union of Nutrition Sciences, cites poverty and the relatively high price of zinc-rich foods such as red meat and shellfish, legumes and whole grain cereals as contributors to a deficiency problem much more common and harmful to health in developing countries than previously believed.

Countries at high-risk are mostly in South and Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Andean area of South America. However, more research is needed to better measure the size of the problem and identify specific sub-groups at highest risk, the report says.

The report ("Assessment of the Risk of Zinc Deficiency in Populations and Options for its Control") being presented at the UN Standing Committee on Nutrition March 23, says the magnitude and associated problems of zinc deficiency have been poorly understood in the past. It sheds new light on the importance of zinc to human health and points a way forward not only for addressing deficiency problems in developing countries but also for future research.

The consultative group IZiNCG, established in 2000 by the UN University Food and Nutrition Programme (based at Cornell University, New York) and the International Union of Nutrition Scientists (based at UCLA, California), describes major new insights on 1) the human health consequences of zinc deficiency, 2) available methods for assessing population zinc status and current estimates of the magnitude and global distribution of the problem, and 3) possible strategies to control this nutritional deficiency disease.

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Contact: Terry Collins
collins1@sympatico.ca
416-538-8712
United Nations University
23-Mar-2004


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