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This brief incursion into the biology of zinc is necessary if we are to fully appreciate the significance of zinc in human nutrition. Two aspects of this complex biology stand out. One is the ubiquity and versatility of this metal. The other is the central but still incompletely understood role, or complex combination of roles, that zinc has in gene expression and in cellular growth and differentiation. Some knowledge of these ramifications of the biology of zinc is important to any understanding and discussion of human zinc nutrition and deficiency. The ubiquity and versatility of zinc in subcellular metabolism suggest that zinc deficiency may well result in a generalized impairment of many metabolic functions ().
The history of our understanding of the role of zinc in human nutrition and disease provides an excellent example of the mutual benefits of closely linking nutrition research in industrialized nations with that in the developing world.