Micronutrient: Zinc

Type of Papers: Reports completed by expert consultations and published by the World Health Organization jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Note: Two WHO reports were summarized together as they contain much of the same information. See references below.


Prevalence of Deficiency:

Risk Factors for Deficiency:

Biochemical Indicators:

Dietary Sources and Bioavailability:

Recommended Nutrient Intakes (mg/day): The following are the Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNI) as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization. The RNI depends on the bioavailability of zinc (i.e., the enhancers and inhibitors of zinc absorption that are present in the diet).


Moderate Bioavailability:
Mixed diets containing animal or fish protein

Low Bioavailability:
Diets high in unrefined, unfermented, or ungerminated grains, negligible intake of animal protein, or 50% of energy intake from high phytate foods

0-6 months

(milk formula)

(phytate-rich vegetable formula)

7-12 months



1-3 years



Upper Limits: The tolerable upper limit (UL) for zinc in children ages 1-3 years is 7 mg/day.

Effective Interventions:

Health Consequences of Deficiency and Benefits of Intervention:


Zinc. Vitamin and mineral requirements in human nutrition. Report of a joint FAO/WHO expert consultation on human vitamin and mineral requirements, Bangkok, Thailand, 21–30 September 1998. 2nd ed. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2004:230-245.

Allen LH, De Benoist B, Dary O, Hurrell R, eds. Guidelines on food fortification with micronutrients. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2006: 57-61, 124-125.