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Zinc and Magnesium Deficiency

By Jessica Bruso

Both zinc and magnesium are important nutrients that need to be consumed in the diet. Zinc is important for wound healing, growth, healthy skin and the production of RNA and DNA. Magnesium is used by the bones, heart, nerves, muscles and immune system. Without sufficient amounts of these nutrients, the body cannot function properly.


Signs of a zinc deficiency include hair loss, irritability, loss of appetite, slow growth in children, slower wound healing and feelings of sluggishness, according to Merck. Magnesium deficiency is actually very rare, according to Oregon State University's Linus Pauling Institute, but includes symptoms such as loss of appetite, muscle spasms, vomiting and nausea.

Groups at Risk

Although zinc deficiency is not common in the United States, vegetarians, those with gastrointestinal diseases, alcoholics, pregnant and lactating women, children who are exclusively breastfed after they are six months old and people with sickle cell disease sometimes do not consume enough zinc through their diets, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.

Those on certain medications -- such as diuretics, antibiotics and cancer-treating medicines, older individuals, alcoholics, those with poorly controlled diabetes and those with gastrointestinal problems that interfere with vitamin and mineral absorption might need supplemental magnesium.

Dietary Interactions

Magnesium deficiency can be caused by taking too much supplemental zinc, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Too much fiber and too little protein can also interfere with magnesium absorption.


Both zinc and magnesium are commonly available through foods, so deficiencies can be prevented through eating a balanced diet. Foods that contain zinc include oysters, poultry, red meat, seafood, dairy products, fortified cereals, beans and nuts. Magnesium-containing foods include whole grains, nuts and seeds, spinach and other green vegetables and beans. Those who are worried about deficiencies can take a multivitamin and mineral supplement to increase their intake without risking intake of too much of these minerals.


Treatment for deficiencies of zinc and magnesium consists of taking supplements to increase the levels of these minerals to the recommended amounts. However, stick to the recommended dosage to avoid getting too much of these minerals. Excess zinc can cause stomach cramps, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, headaches and vomiting, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Too much magnesium can result in stomach cramps and diarrhea, and, eventually, kidney failure.

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