4

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Reliability of Zinc tests?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created July 26, 2010 at 6:19 PM

One of the ways to test for zinc deficiency is Zinc Tally or Zinc Status. It's basically a solution of zinc in water. You hold 10 mL in your mouth for 10 seconds and gauge your response in four grades:

  1. no taste -- tastes exactly like water (highly deficient)
  2. after about 8-10 seconds, slight metallic taste (deficient)
  3. immediate metallic taste, but tolerable (not deficient)
  4. very strong, immediate, unpleasant metallic taste -- you will make a face and want to spit it out immediately (excellent zinc status)

Anybody know how reliable this test is? A quick Google search returned peer-reviewed journal articles that claimed that there are no reliable zinc tests that measure marginal deficiency -- so I'm wondering if the claims from the Zinc Tally people are overblown. Charles Poliquin seems to put his faith in Zinc Tally, but I wanted to see if any of you know more about this.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on February 25, 2011
at 06:30 PM

FWIW, after a few months of supplementing 50 mg zinc picolinate, I went from a 2 to a 3. But, I didn't do a blind test or anything.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on February 25, 2011
at 06:28 PM

My original point stands. QW is useful, but not exactly cutting-edge or well informed about nutrition.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on February 25, 2011
at 06:26 PM

QW attempts to discredit Weston Price here: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/holisticdent.html Some of the criticisms are fair. Many are not. WAPF responded here: http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/960-the-right-price.html

525ceb06bc8862932d853a033411e3b7

(350)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:12 AM

That may be so, Diane, but it makes neither Quackwatch nor paleo entirely bunk. Both have merits, no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Finally, I searched his site for "Paleo" and got zero hits. Got a reference?

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on January 17, 2011
at 03:55 AM

I think Quackwatch says a Paleo Diet is bunk... just sayin'...

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 02:38 AM

Thanks for the link. I need to work on my Google-fu, I guess!

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 02:35 AM

All of your objections make sense. Let me ask some uninformed questions: RDA may not be accurate or useful, so what if 300% of RDA is not adequate anyway? Also, does declining soil quality affect things like zinc content of foods? (I've heard that it may affect the content of, say, magnesium, but I don't know if that's true, either.) But I agree -- on the face of it, sweat loss is not a satisfactory answer for why Poliquin claims >90% of his athletes initially test deficient.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 12, 2011
at 10:49 PM

Jae- a few things come to mind. First, Poliquin's athletes may not eat as much red meat as you and would eat more antinutrients. Second, sweat loss of zinc may not be high enough to mitigate your 300% RDA intake (http://www.arniebakercycling.com/pubs/Free/NS%20Sweat.pdf) unless you live in a sauna or Tour de France a lot. I mean, people have sweated for millenia, right?

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 12, 2011
at 09:47 PM

Also, I agree 100% about uniform cutoffs not making sense.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 12, 2011
at 09:46 PM

Kamal, the only reason is Poliquin's claim that almost all of his athletes are deficient in zinc before supplementation (due to loss via sweat, among other things). I'm not taking it at face value, since there are obvious problems with that. But Poliquin has a lot of experience and produces undeniable results. So, I'm willing to consider the idea that I may be deficient, despite apparently adequate intake. I'm also willing to consider the idea that Poliquin may be wrong on this. FWIW, Robb Wolf seems to back up Poliquin on this particular issue. I'm looking for concrete data either way.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 12, 2011
at 09:43 PM

I like quackwatch, but I am skeptical of their abilities when it comes to nutrition and health. See their article on where to find reliable nutrition information: http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/nutritionist.html

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 12, 2011
at 08:56 PM

How was it shown to be reliable? Reliability would be shown against a gold standard measurement, and I don't see anything on pubmed about it. Other things affect taste in addition to zinc (age, genetic variants, medications, etc), so having uniform cutoffs does not make sense to me. Jae, is there a reason other than the zinc tally that you think you are deficient? Seeing as how you don't eat much phytates, and meat enhances zinc absorption, my hunch is that you are a-okay!

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 25, 2010
at 04:44 PM

According to the information we've been learning, environmental illness (multiple chemical sensitivity/MCT) combined with some detox sluggishness in your liver are possibly a big factors for someone like you who is consuming tons of zinc but testing out really low. I can talk more about this with you 1:1 but it's pretty unique for each person and I'd not want others to really glean DOs and DON'Ts from a conversation about one person's unique situation. Does that make sense? Maybe google a bit on the subject and contact me if you want some help trying to figure it out further.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 25, 2010
at 03:01 PM

I'm on a mass gain cycle at the moment, eating 4,500 calories on a good day. A lot of red meat (grass-fed), very clean Paleo. On paper, my zinc intake was through the roof, sometimes over 300% or 400% of the RDA, I think. But the taste test showed I was pretty deficient. I thought it was because I was losing so much through sweat, and that that's the main reason why athletes are so often deficient. Are there other common reasons for zinc malabsorption (assuming a clean Paleo diet)?

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4 Answers

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3
4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 25, 2010
at 05:32 AM

We learned about it in my nutrition classes at Bauman College (holistic nutrition school) and it's supposed to be pretty reliable. That said, being deficient in zinc doesn't just mean you should go out and down pills of zinc. You should figure out WHY you're deficient- whether something is prohibiting you from absorbing it, or something is putting you out of balance, or if you're just not eating any after all. All of which are possible reasons for the deficiency to present itself.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on September 25, 2010
at 03:01 PM

I'm on a mass gain cycle at the moment, eating 4,500 calories on a good day. A lot of red meat (grass-fed), very clean Paleo. On paper, my zinc intake was through the roof, sometimes over 300% or 400% of the RDA, I think. But the taste test showed I was pretty deficient. I thought it was because I was losing so much through sweat, and that that's the main reason why athletes are so often deficient. Are there other common reasons for zinc malabsorption (assuming a clean Paleo diet)?

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on September 25, 2010
at 04:44 PM

According to the information we've been learning, environmental illness (multiple chemical sensitivity/MCT) combined with some detox sluggishness in your liver are possibly a big factors for someone like you who is consuming tons of zinc but testing out really low. I can talk more about this with you 1:1 but it's pretty unique for each person and I'd not want others to really glean DOs and DON'Ts from a conversation about one person's unique situation. Does that make sense? Maybe google a bit on the subject and contact me if you want some help trying to figure it out further.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 12, 2011
at 08:56 PM

How was it shown to be reliable? Reliability would be shown against a gold standard measurement, and I don't see anything on pubmed about it. Other things affect taste in addition to zinc (age, genetic variants, medications, etc), so having uniform cutoffs does not make sense to me. Jae, is there a reason other than the zinc tally that you think you are deficient? Seeing as how you don't eat much phytates, and meat enhances zinc absorption, my hunch is that you are a-okay!

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 12, 2011
at 09:47 PM

Also, I agree 100% about uniform cutoffs not making sense.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 12, 2011
at 10:49 PM

Jae- a few things come to mind. First, Poliquin's athletes may not eat as much red meat as you and would eat more antinutrients. Second, sweat loss of zinc may not be high enough to mitigate your 300% RDA intake (http://www.arniebakercycling.com/pubs/Free/NS%20Sweat.pdf) unless you live in a sauna or Tour de France a lot. I mean, people have sweated for millenia, right?

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 02:35 AM

All of your objections make sense. Let me ask some uninformed questions: RDA may not be accurate or useful, so what if 300% of RDA is not adequate anyway? Also, does declining soil quality affect things like zinc content of foods? (I've heard that it may affect the content of, say, magnesium, but I don't know if that's true, either.) But I agree -- on the face of it, sweat loss is not a satisfactory answer for why Poliquin claims >90% of his athletes initially test deficient.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 12, 2011
at 09:46 PM

Kamal, the only reason is Poliquin's claim that almost all of his athletes are deficient in zinc before supplementation (due to loss via sweat, among other things). I'm not taking it at face value, since there are obvious problems with that. But Poliquin has a lot of experience and produces undeniable results. So, I'm willing to consider the idea that I may be deficient, despite apparently adequate intake. I'm also willing to consider the idea that Poliquin may be wrong on this. FWIW, Robb Wolf seems to back up Poliquin on this particular issue. I'm looking for concrete data either way.

4
21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on January 12, 2011
at 10:51 PM

I reverse my position above, upon further amateurish review. This (lone) paper shows good accuracy of zinc taste tests (in pregnant women). Can't hurt to try it, I guess!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8112809

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 13, 2011
at 02:38 AM

Thanks for the link. I need to work on my Google-fu, I guess!

2
525ceb06bc8862932d853a033411e3b7

(350)

on January 12, 2011
at 08:26 PM

4a1966b5bc00a9aefd3abd63b9913284

on January 17, 2011
at 03:55 AM

I think Quackwatch says a Paleo Diet is bunk... just sayin'...

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 12, 2011
at 09:43 PM

I like quackwatch, but I am skeptical of their abilities when it comes to nutrition and health. See their article on where to find reliable nutrition information: http://www.quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/nutritionist.html

525ceb06bc8862932d853a033411e3b7

(350)

on January 21, 2011
at 12:12 AM

That may be so, Diane, but it makes neither Quackwatch nor paleo entirely bunk. Both have merits, no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Finally, I searched his site for "Paleo" and got zero hits. Got a reference?

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on February 25, 2011
at 06:28 PM

My original point stands. QW is useful, but not exactly cutting-edge or well informed about nutrition.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on February 25, 2011
at 06:26 PM

QW attempts to discredit Weston Price here: http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/holisticdent.html Some of the criticisms are fair. Many are not. WAPF responded here: http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/960-the-right-price.html

0
0b5ec1a804f73cf6e4cec4e13d9b9ab9

on August 13, 2013
at 11:23 PM

If you are showing a zinc deficiency, go and get a test for pyroluria, which blood disorder causes a chronic deficiency in zinc and b6, even though dietary sources are 'adequate' for regular people. If you have it, it's no big deal to fix. Unless you aren't diagnosed and it will become more and more of a problem as the years go by.

Doesn't hurt to test for this.

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