The Benefits of Zinc for Kids
Posted on June 28 2022,
Zinc is an essential mineral that must be consumed in your daily diet because it is not naturally produced and stored by your body. Zinc is found in several natural foods and is also available in the form of dietary supplements. You can find this mineral in some over-the-counter drugs and lozenges as zinc is often used in cold remedies. Many common foods, including breakfast cereals, are fortified with zinc as well. (1)
What does zinc do? This mineral performs several essential functions in your child’s body, including protein synthesis, gene expression, immune system support, wound healing, enzymatic reactions, and the metabolization of many cellular activities. Zinc also supports healthy growth and development throughout childhood, pregnancy, and adulthood. (1)
Deficiency of this vital mineral can result in numerous health problems, including frequent infections, blurry vision, weight loss, slow wound healing, brain fog, and delayed growth in kids. It is recommended that you at first try to fulfill your child’s zinc needs through their natural diet. In case of severe deficiency, you can also give zinc or multi-vitamin supplements to your child after the approval of your child’s pediatrician. (2)
How Does Zinc Function in Your Child’s Body?
When you think about what’s important for your child’s healthy diet, it’s easy to focus on ingredients, like fats, sugar, and salt, which we are constantly told to limit consumption of. But what about the ingredients and foods that provide more of the essential nutrients our children need, like zinc?
Zinc is a vital mineral that serves your child’s health in countless ways. Research has revealed that, after iron, zinc is the second most abundant trace mineral found in every cell of the human body. It is crucial for the activity of almost 300 enzymes, regulating nerve functions, digestion, metabolism, and other body processes. Your child’s proper growth and development rely on this mineral because of its role in cell division and growth. Zinc is also needed for the normal functioning and development of immune cells. (3)
One study shows that zinc is important for your child’s skin health, protein production, and DNA synthesis. Another scientific study has demonstrated that zinc is also necessary for proper sense of smell and taste in children.
How is zinc absorbed in your child’s body? After zinc is digested, it is absorbed in the small intestine. Almost 70% of the zinc in your child’s body is then bound to a blood protein known as albumin. So, any health problem that disturbs your child’s albumin concentration also has a secondary effect on their body’s zinc levels. (2)
Why Do Children Need Zinc?
Zinc is essential for your child’s overall health and wellbeing. Here are numerous health benefits zinc provides to your kid:
- Boosts the immune system
- Promotes wound healing
- Helps treat acne
- Decreases inflammation
- Promotes growth and development
Boosts the immune system: Zinc helps make your child’s immune system strong. This is because it is important for the proper functioning of immune cells. Consequently, a deficiency of this mineral can result in a weakened immune response in kids.
Research has shown that zinc supplements are effective in reducing oxidative stress and stimulating the immune response in children. One study has found that a daily intake of 80 to 92 milligrams of zinc can reduce the length of a cold by 33%. Zinc even plays a significant role in promoting immune responses and reducing infections in older adults, so this is definitely a mineral the whole family will want to include in their diet. (4)
Promotes wound healing: Zinc is typically used in hospitals for treating certain ulcers, burns, and skin injuries. It plays role in collagen synthesis, inflammatory response, and immune function. In fact, your child’s skin holds a large amount of zinc, almost 5% of his body’s total zinc content.
A 12-week study was conducted to evaluate the effect of zinc in treating foot ulcers in 60 diabetics. They were given 200 mg of zinc per day and observed a significant decline in ulcers as compared to the control group. This is just one of many ways zinc has been used to effectively treat common disorders. (5)
Helps to treat acne: Acne is the most common skin problem, affecting almost 9.4% of the world population. It occurs due to inflammation, bacteria, and obstruction of oil-making glands. Several studies reveal that both oral and topical zinc treatments are good in inhibiting the growth of P. acnes¸ reducing inflammation, and suppressing the activity of oil glands.
The research has found that people suffering from acne commonly have lower levels of zinc in their bodies. Therefore, zinc supplements can help in improving the symptoms of this unwanted skin problem. (6)
Decreases inflammation: Several studies have depicted that zinc plays a crucial role in certain inflammatory proteins and oxidative stress in children. One study in particular has shown that oxidative stress in children can lead to severe chronic inflammation, which contributes to a wide range of chronic diseases, including mental decline, cancer, and heart diseases at a later age. An additional study has found that older adults who take 45 mg of zinc per day experience a significant decrease in inflammatory proteins as compared to a placebo group. (7)
Promotes growth and development: The research has shown that zinc has a positive effect on both weight and height measurements in children, and the impact is high in kids who already suffer from issues with being underweight and in a lower percentile of overall growth. According to health experts, zinc supplementation used consistently between 1 to 3 years can effectively increase height in stunted children by 1 inch. It is advised that any vitamin or mineral supplementation be run by your child’s pediatrician first. (8)
What Is Zinc Deficiency?
Almost 2 billion persons in the adult population of the world are zinc deficient due to inadequate dietary intake of zinc. Major risk factors of zinc deficiency include:
- Poor dietary intake
- Genetic mutations
- Poor absorption
- Old age
Common signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency in children include:
- Frequent head colds
- Weight loss
- Hair loss
- Delayed growth
- Frequent brain fog
- Dulled sense of smell and taste
Frequent head colds: If your child suffers from frequent bouts of cold and flu, they might be suffering from zinc deficiency. The research has shown that zinc deficiency is strongly associated with a weakened immune system. Additionally, evidence has demonstrated that if someone takes zinc within 24 hours of the start of cold symptoms, it can reduce the length of the cold. (9)
Weight loss: Unexpected weight loss is a clear sign of zinc deficiency in kids. This is because inadequate zinc intake can affect appetite in children. One scientific study has revealed that zinc deficiency can lead to irritability, depression, and mood changes in kids. (10)
Hair loss: Research has shown that unexplained hair loss is one of the most common signs of zinc deficiency in children. However, mega doses of zinc supplements can be just as bad for hair as too little zinc. It is always recommended that zinc requirements for your child are fulfilled primarily through diet instead of supplements to prevent these kinds of more extreme side effects. (11)
Delayed growth: Health experts often prescribe zinc supplements to pregnant women because this mineral plays a crucial role in supporting proper growth and development, even before birth. On the other hand, if your child is deficient in zinc then they may face challenges in their growth and development. (12)
Frequent brain fog: A study has depicted that zinc plays a crucial role in regulating neuron communication in children. The deficiency of zinc can lead to memory problems and foggy thinking because zinc is important for cognitive functions in kids. Zinc supplements have also been found to improve the symptoms of ADHD, a common neurological disorder in children that affects attention. Always consult with your doctor before treating any symptoms with supplements. (13)
Dulled sense of smell and taste: Inadequate zinc intake can affect the sense of taste and smell in children and older adults. This is because one of the enzymes that is mandatory for proper smell and taste depends on zinc for its proper functioning. (10)
How Much Zinc Does Your Kid Need per Day?
Dosing recommendations for zinc are given in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients that a person needs per day. (1)
It is important to provide an adequate amount of zinc to your children in order to meet their body’s requirements. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this mineral is provided in milligrams (mg) below: (1)
|Age||Recommended daily amount in milligrams (mg)|
|0-6 months||2 mg|
|7-12 months||3 mg|
|1-3 years||3 mg|
|4-8 years||5 mg|
|9-13 years||8 mg|
|14-18 years||11 mg (males); 9 mg (females)|
11 mg (males); 8 mg (females)
Should You Give Zinc Supplements to Your Kids?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), zinc supplements are safe for kids and are even effective in reducing morbidity in children that are linked with lower respiratory infections and diarrhea. As you can see, Zinc is vital for several functions of the human body. If your child seems to be displaying any signs or symptoms that may be linked to zinc deficiency, it is recommended that you talk to their pediatrician about possible supplementation of essential nutrients. (14)
Foods That Are Rich in Zinc
Major animal-based dietary sources of zinc include seafood, poultry, and red meat. Good plant-based food sources of zinc are nuts, beans, whole grains, dairy products, and fortified breakfast cereals. However, the presence of phytates in legumes and whole grains inhibits the absorption of zinc in the human body. That’s why the bioavailability of this mineral from plant-based foods and grains is lower than its other food sources.
Here are several foods that contain a good amount of zinc: (1)
|Food||Serving size||Milligrams (mg) per serving|
|Cooked oysters||3 oz||74 mg|
|Canned beans||1/2 cup||2.9 mg|
|Chicken||3 oz||2.4 mg|
|Low-fat yogurt||8 oz||1.7 mg|
|Cooked chickpeas||1/2 cup||1.3 mg|
|Swiss Cheese||1 oz||1.2 mg|
|Roasted almonds||1 oz||0.9 mg|
|Cooked kidney beans||1/2 cup||0.9 mg|
Risks and Side Effects of Zinc
Just like deficiency of zinc is harmful, excessive intake can also cause health problems. The primary reason for zinc toxicity is due to too much intake of zinc supplements. Common symptoms of zinc toxicity are headaches, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, decreased immune function, and reduction in good cholesterol (HDL) levels. (15)
The research has shown that zinc is safe when taken orally and following dosing recommendations. Higher doses are unsafe for pregnant and lactating mothers. Health experts suggest that breastfeeding and lactating females should not take more than 40 mg of zinc per day. (16)
Vegetarian and plant-based diets can result in zinc deficiency, so this population may benefit from supplementing their diet with other forms of zinc.
It is important to note that drinking alcohol can result in poor zinc absorption in your body. Zinc supplements can also have a moderate interaction with antibiotics, such as quinolone, as the zinc can reduce the absorption of the antibiotics in your body. To prevent this interaction, it is suggested that zinc supplements are taken at least 1 hour after taking antibiotics. (17)
Zinc is an essential mineral that plays several important functions in children, including protein synthesis, gene expression, immunity boosting, wound healing, enzymatic reactions, and healthy growth and development. This mineral is not naturally produced and stored by your child’s body, which is why you should ensure an adequate amount of zinc-rich foods are included in your child’s daily diet. Major dietary sources of zinc include seafood, oysters, nuts, red meat, and poultry. Deficiency of this mineral can result in several health problems in children, including hair loss, weight loss, infections, and a weakened immune system. In case of severe deficiency, you might consider zinc supplements for your kid after the approval of your physician.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.