Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Zinc Deficiency

Zinc is important for growth and development and for maintaining the integrity of the intestinal lining. Low levels of zinc can also cause taste abnormalities which lead some kids to become picky eaters. If you have a picky eater who is not growing, and blood needs to be drawn for any reason, sometimes it is possible to add vitamin and mineral levels to the blood test. Getting a picture of the specific nutrient deficiencies of your child makes it easier to tailor the diet and supplements that will help them to heal and grow. But supplementation isn't the only answer to low levels of zinc because the zinc needs to be absorbed properly to be utilized by the body. Zinc is present in many foods but it needs digestion to make it bioavailable--otherwise the body can't use it. Individuals with malabsorption syndromes such as celiac and crohn's are most at risk for zinc deficiency.

According to a book on Dietary Reference Intake published by the Institute of Medicine many common problems can be signs of zinc deficiency "Because of the ubiquity of zinc and the involvement of this micronutrient in so many core areas of metabolism, it is not surprising that the features of zinc deficiency are frequently quite basic and nonspecific, including growth retardation, alopecia, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation and impotence, eye and skin lesions, and impaired appetite."1 The good news is that a study on zinc deficiency and growth indicates this can be corrected in part by zinc supplementation.

Many foods contain zinc including red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and whole grains. But phytates (found in grains and plant sources of zinc) can bind to zinc and inhibit it's absorption making it less available.2 Because many children get extra zinc from processed food that has been supplemented, you might end up getting less zinc if you eat more whole foods. Because gluten free foods are often not fortified, it makes supplementation critical for kids on a gluten free diet.

We use zinc lozenges from Country Life which can be a chewable supplement or used sublingually. They have a store locator on the website.

1. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc (2000) p. 447
Related posts:
Whole Grains and Calcium
Iron and Anemia


Lauren said...

This is such great information - I shared it with D last night and he was really interested. Thanks for letting me know about it.


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Anonymous said...

because gluten consumption is a zinc drain, gluten free diets help elevate zinc all by themselves.

healthy people in low gluten societies (thailand study) have zinc levels around 18 umol/L.

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