ZINC AND IMMUNITY

When we think of zinc, we think immunity. It is critical for the development, function and mediation of the immune cells. Both the defensive and regulatory sides of the immune system require zinc to work efficiently.

Low zinc can contribute to:

  • Increased susceptibility to infections
  • Slow recovery time from illness
  • Development of allergies and atopic conditions
  • Development of autoimmune disease

Zinc is also needed for lung health and function. If your child is prone to respiratory infections such as croup or has asthma, zinc is a consideration to make.

ZINC AND HEALING

Another aspect of zinc is skin integrity and wound healing. Zinc is needed to repair damage to connective tissues, including the skin. It also calms down inflammation.

If you have a child who has any skin concerns such as eczema or acne, or even just a tendency to slow wound healing and easy bruising, think zinc.

ZINC AND GUT HEALTH

Zinc is required for the function and structure of the mucus membranes in the gut. It supports healthy connective tissue, so plays a critical role in healing the lining of the gut wall.

Another key role is the production of stomach acid. Upper digestive issues such as reflux and heartburn are often linked to low zinc levels.

Zinc deficiency can contribute to a number of issues, including abnormal signalling between the gut and brain and inflammation. It can even alter the composition of the microbiome.

Zinc for Kids Supports Healthy Bodies and Minds

  • Zinc is a critical trace mineral that your child needs to stay healthy.
  • Zinc supports many functions in your little one’s body, including healthy growth, development, and immune function.
  • If your child is eating a healthy and varied diet, they may be getting enough zinc.
  • However, even a mild deficiency in zinc for kids can have serious effects on their health. If you’re worried, consult your doctor to find out they need a zinc supplement.

While only about 12% of the U.S. population likely has a risk of zinc deficiency, even a mild deficiency can affect your child’s physical and mental health. So it’s important to understand the role of zinc for kids and what you can do to make sure they get enough of this essential nutrient.

Let’s explore what zinc is and why it’s so important. We’ll also look at how much zinc your child needs, what signs may indicate a deficiency, and how to increase their zinc intake. After all, your child’s health is precious — and it sets the stage for a healthy adulthood.

THE BENEFITS OF ZINC FOR KIDS

Zinc is an essential nutrient your child needs for overall wellness. It’s a trace mineral, which means it’s only needed in small doses. As the human body can’t make it and doesn’t store it, your little one needs a certain amount of zinc every day.

Zinc for kids is critical for many functions. It supports:

  • Normal growth and development (a deficiency can lead to stunted growth)
  • Production of the protein and DNA in cells
  • Enzyme functions in the intestine and liver
  • Innate and adaptive immune function
  • Wound healing
  • Digestive and metabolic health
  • Healthy brain growth, as well as cognitive function, memory, and attention
  • Healthy skin, hair, and nails
  • Reduced cell damage caused by free radicals (zinc is an antioxidant)
  • Healthy sexual development
  • The senses of taste and smell
  • Balanced blood sugar
  • Strong teeth and bones
  • Absorption of vitamin A

HOW MUCH ZINC DOES YOUR CHILD NEED?

The amount of zinc your child needs depends on their age. According to the National Institutes of Health, recommended dietary allowances (RDA) of zinc for kids who are not vegan or vegetarian (more on this below) are as follows:

  • 0-6 months: 2 milligrams
  • 7-12 months: 3 milligrams
  • 1-3 years of age: 3 milligrams
  • 4-8 years of age: 5 milligrams
  • 9-13 years of age: 8 milligrams
  • 14-18 years of age: 9 milligrams for girls and 11 milligrams for boys

While many plant-based sources do contain zinc, they also contain phytates, which bind zinc and therefore reduce zinc absorption. So if your child’s zinc intake comes mainly from plant-based foods, they probably need at least 50% more to meet their daily zinc requirements. For example, if your 15-year-old daughter is vegan, she should aim to get 13.5 milligrams of plant-based zinc per day.

Some other ways to reduce the impact of phytates on zinc absorption from plant-based sources are to soak, ferment, or heat the food, among other methods. Also, some plants — like garlic and onion — act as mineral absorption enhancers, and cooking your food with them can enhance zinc absorption by as much as 50%.

ZINC AND NEUROLOGICAL HEALTH

Zinc is one of the most prevalent nutrients in the brain, and is required for the structure and function of the brain. As our kids are still laying down the structure, they require more zinc.

Another influence is on brain chemical metabolism. Zinc plays a role in mood and behaviour. At Natural Super Kids, it is the first nutrient we look at when it comes to children with behavioural issues or challenges.

Low zinc levels are associated with problems such as depression, anxiety and even minor issues such as frequent tantrums. A healthy level of zinc helps support a calm, happy mood in kids – which is what every parent wants!

ZINC AND HORMONES

If your child is heading towards puberty, a healthy zinc level is critical! For boys, zinc is required for the production of testosterone and helps to balance hormones. For girls, zinc promotes healthy ovulation and hormone balance.

Zinc also helps to support healthy moods and reduce acne. So it is the #1 mineral we recommend for pre-teens and teens.

CAN YOU TEST ZINC LEVELS?

It is possible to test zinc levels via a blood test. In some cases, it can be useful to test. But unfortunately, there are a few reasons that a blood test may not reflect your child’s zinc levels accurately.

Firstly, the zinc blood test is not sensitive enough to pick up on a marginal zinc deficiency. This is the most common issue for kids, and it can still have a significant impact on their health.

Zinc levels in the blood can also vary throughout the day. If the blood test isn’t done at the right time, it may come up as higher than the true average.

Another factor that can influence the blood test results is inflammation. If your child has any health concern that involves inflammation, their results can be skewed.

That’s why we recommend working with a qualified health practitioner. They will be able to assess the likelihood of low zinc based on symptoms, intake and other factors.

DIETARY SOURCES OF ZINC

One way to boost your child’s zinc intake is through the diet. Include a variety of zinc-rich wholefoods such as:

  • Red meat
  • Shellfish such as mussels and oysters
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and seeds, particularly pumpkin seeds or pepitas
  • Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans
  • Wholegrains such as buckwheat, quinoa, spelt, rye and oats

SHOULD YOU SUPPLEMENT ZINC FOR KIDS?

Here at Natural Super Kids, food is always our first go-to for nutrients. But getting enough zinc for kids needs can be difficult. Many of our soils are now depleted due to intense farming methods, which means the zinc content of many foods is dropping.

If your child is vegetarian, vegan or fussy about what they eat, it is even harder to get enough zinc in. For many, a supplement is worth considering.

When you’re looking for a supplement, we recommend going for an amino acid chelate form. This form is better absorbed into the bloodstream.

The right dose depends on your child’s intake and needs. But if you suspect they could do with some extra zinc, you could start with a high-quality multivitamin. A decent multi will have around 10mg of zinc per serve, which is a good starting dose for the average child aged 4-12.

ARE YOU WORRIED THAT YOUR CHILD MIGHT NEED SOME EXTRA ZINC?

It’s always a good idea to get professional support when it comes to nutrients. A practitioner can help to determine any deficiencies and give you guidance around safe supplementation.

Zinc deficiency and supplementation in children

Zinc is an essential trace element that plays a role in growth, tissue repair and wound healing, carbohydrate tolerance, synthesis of testicular hormones, and the immune response. Zinc intake is closely related to protein intake; as a result, zinc deficiency is an important component of nutritionally related morbidity worldwide. Symptoms attributable to severe zinc depletion include growth failure, primary hypogonadism, skin disease, impaired taste and smell, and impaired immunity and resistance to infection. Zinc supplementation or food fortification in populations at risk for zinc deficiency appears to have beneficial effects on the incidence and outcome of serious childhood infectious diseases.

This topic review will discuss the causes, clinical manifestations, and treatment of zinc deficiency in children, followed by a review of clinical application of zinc supplementation and underlying evidence. Zinc metabolism, actions, and clinical aspects in adults are discussed separately. (See “Overview of dietary trace elements”, section on ‘Zinc’.)

The use of zinc for cold symptoms, including potential side effects, is discussed separately. (See “The common cold in children: Management and prevention”, section on ‘Unproven therapies’.)

RECOMMENDED INTAKE

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for zinc ranges from 2 mg/day in young infants to 9 mg/day in adolescent females and 11 mg/day in adolescent males (table 1) [1]. Requirements are slightly higher during pregnancy and lactation.