Zinc Helps Kids Grow
Some infants and children may benefit from adding zinc to their diets. New data suggest that increasing the amount of this mineral may help children reach a healthy height and weight.
“Because of the important functional consequences of zinc deficiency for children’s growth and other health outcomes, interventions to improve zinc … [in the diet] should be considered in those populations at particularly high risk of zinc deficiency,” write the authors of a report published in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Zinc is a mineral found in a variety of foods such as red meat, whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans, and seafood. It is also found in small amounts in breast milk.
Zinc is vital for the normal growth and development of the reproductive organs and brain and plays a role in the normal functioning of the immune system and many other processes in the body. Recently, zinc deficiency has been linked to decreased growth, increased colds and infections, impaired memory, learning disabilities, and poor attention span. The deficiency is a major problem in developing countries; for instance, 70% of school age children in Thailand are deficient in zinc.
In the U.S., zinc deficiency in children is not well recognized, although it affects an estimated 6% of girls and 10% of boys overall. Disadvantaged children are especially at risk — more than 50% of poor children and 30% of non-poor children aged 1-5 get less than 70% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of zinc (10 milligrams per day for children). In fact, recent data suggest that of 16 key nutrients, more children were deficient in zinc than in any other nutrient.
This new report looked at 33 studies on the effects of zinc supplementation on children up to 10 years old that were published between 1976 and 2001.
Overall, zinc supplementation produced very significant positive effects on both height and weight measures of the children. And the effect was even greater among children who already suffered from stunted growth or were underweight.
Researchers say it is hard to quantify the impact because the effects vary according to the age of the child, duration of supplementation, and other factors. But they cite the example of a Guatemalan study that found three years of zinc supplementation (from 3 to 36 months of age) was responsible for nearly an inch in additional growth.
Currently, scientists do not believe there is enough data to recommend widespread zinc supplementation in U.S. children as other studies of zinc’s benefits have been inconclusive. In addition, scientists are unsure as to how much is enough; too much zinc can be as dangerous as a deficiency.
Adequate zinc can be obtained thorough a well-balanced diet of a variety of foods. Those foods include red meat, nuts, shellfish, potatoes with skins, beans, and mushrooms.
BENEFITS OF ZINC FOR CHILDREN
Zinc is an essential mineral and one of the most important nutrients for rapidly growing bodies. It’s involved in the healthy growth and development of children as it’s required for building new tissues. Zinc is also needed for the activity of more than 100 different enzymes in the body and plays a role in:
Immune function – Zinc aids in the maintenance of healthy immune function in kids and may reduce the frequency of mild upper respiratory tract infections. When zinc intake is insufficient it may lead to poor immune function and increase the susceptibility to illness.
The development of cartilage and bone – Zinc promotes the formation of collagen to support the building of bones and maintenance of bone strength, and assists with the development of cartilage for healthy joints.
Metabolising carbohydrates, fats and protein – Zinc is required for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and protein and is therefore important for getting the most out of the food children eat.
Minor wound healing – Zinc is an essential for wound healing. It’s therefore especially valuable for kids as they are prone to minor scrapes and grazes.
Maintaining a healthy appetite – Adequate zinc helps maintain a healthy appetite. When zinc is insufficient over a period of time it can result in a diminished appetite, which isn’t ideal for kids who are growing rapidly and are often already fussy eaters.
The structure of proteins and cell membranes ‐ Zinc is an important factor in the maintenance of good health.
HOW MUCH ZINC DOES MY CHILD NEED?
It’s recommended that kids between the ages of one and three obtain 3mg of zinc daily, children between the ages of four and eight have 4mg daily and kids between nine and 13 years of age have 6mg every day. This can be achieved through a healthy diet or topped up with a zinc supplement.
WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF ZINC FOR KIDS?
Oysters contain more zinc than any other food, but it’s highly likely that your kids will turn their noses up at these chewy and slimy shellfish. Zinc can also be found in the following kid‐friendly foods:
- Pork chops
- Baked beans
- Chicken breast
- Cheddar, mozzarella and Swiss cheese
- Kidney beans
- Crab and lobster
Despite your best efforts it may be possible that your children aren’t getting the zinc they need from their diet alone due to fussy eating patterns or other factors. To top up their diet and ensure they have the zinc their growing bodies require, a specialised kids’ multivitamin with zinc may be beneficial. This will support their healthy growth and development, immune function, metabolism, bone health and minor wound healing, and help give them the best start to life.
Antioxidant activities ‐ Zinc has antioxidant properties and may help to reduce free radical damage in the body.
If we could pick one mineral when it comes to children’s health, it would have to be zinc. There are countless benefits of zinc for kids – and for adults too!
Unfortunately, zinc deficiency is all too common in kids these days. This can contribute to a variety of health conditions and symptoms.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about the benefits of zinc for kids.
WHY IS ZINC SO IMPORTANT FOR KIDS?
Zinc is needed for all growth and development in the human body. It is involved in over 300 enzyme systems in the body, which is why it is needed for so many critical functions.
When it comes to kids health, zinc is particularly important when it comes to immunity, gut health, mood and behaviour.
Kids also have a higher demand for zinc compared to adults. They churn through a lot of zinc, particularly during growth spurts. This is why many of the symptoms and systems affected by zinc tend to be a problem for toddlers and teenagers!
COULD YOUR CHILD BE DEFICIENT IN ZINC?
Wondering what could indicate low zinc levels in your child? Some of the issues linked to low zinc include:
A decreased growth rate in children
Increased susceptibility to colds and other infections
- Impaired memory
- Learning disabilities
- Poor attention span
- Delayed cognitive development
- Loss of appetite
- Fussy eating
- Impaired sense of taste and smell
- Impaired wound healing
If your child has one or more of these issues, then it is worth considering low zinc as a culprit.