Abstract Zinc is a relatively abundant trace element that performs a wide variety of functions in the body. Because of its size and charge characteristics, it is used by thousands of proteins to stabilize structure and assist function. These proteins are largely enzymes and transcription factors that are involved in many bodily processes, including growth and immune function. Zinc is also widely distributed in foods, though bioavailability may be limited in plant foods by phytate. Absence of a good method for assessing status makes estimation of prevalence of deficiency problematic, but mild deficiencies may be common.