Zinc deficiency and bariatric surgery

14 Mar 2024 | Bariatric Surgery, Gastric Bypass, Sleeve Gastrectomy

Zinc is a trace mineral that is used by enzymes in multiple normal body processes including the immune system, wound healing, skin and hair growth.  Oysters are a very rich source of dietary zinc, but it is also found in other shellfish, fish, red meat, cheese and fortified cereals.

Because zinc is used in so many body processes, zinc deficiency can lead to different symptoms.  Most commonly these include diarrhoea and hair loss in children and younger adults; smell and taste changes in adulthood; and wound healing problems and reduced cognitive or mental function in older adults.  Zinc requirements are increased during pregnancy and breastfeeding and zinc deficiency increases the risks of some pregnancy complications.

Although zinc deficiency is uncommon overall, it is more common in people who have had bariatric surgery, those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or in people with inflammatory bowel diseases or coeliac disease.  We recommend testing zinc levels annually in people who have had bariatric surgery as well as when planning a pregnancy and each trimester during pregnancy.  Although most people get enough zinc in their diet and multivitamin after bariatric surgery, additional zinc can be given on prescription if needed.