Zinc supplements improve adolescents’ mental performance The Experimental Biology 2005 conference held in San Diego this month was the site of a presentation by Dr James G. Penland, of findings discovered by his team at the USDA’s Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota that supplementation with zinc helps improve the mental performance of adolescent boys and girls.
Ninety-eight seventh-grade boys and 111 girls were given fruit juice that contained 0, 10 or 20 milligrams zinc from zinc gluconate five days per week for 10 to 12 weeks. Students, parents and teachers were not aware of which children received the supplement. The students were administered tests measuring attention, memory, problem solving and eye-hand coordination to assess mental and motor skills at the beginning and end of the study. Questionnaires concerning the participants’ physical, mental and social abilities, and school performance were completed by parents, teachers and students to determine any changes in psychosocial function. Blood samples taken before and after the study were analyzed for zinc levels.
Dr Penland and colleagues found that supplementation with 20 milligrams zinc per day led to greater memory and attention abilities than those demonstrated by children who did not receive zinc. Visual memory reaction time was lowered by 12 percent in those who received zinc compared to 6 percent in those who received no supplements. Word recognition and attention similarly improved in the group who received 20 milligrams. Prior zinc status appeared to have no effect on the benefits of supplementation. Students who received 10 milligrams zinc, which is the Recommended Dietary Allowance for this age group, did not experience significant improvement.
The study is the first to demonstrate zinc’s effect on mental performance in adolescents, who are particularly at risk of deficiency due to rapid growth and poor dietary habits. Dr Penland stated that if further studies show that the mental abilities of adolescents improve with increasing zinc intake, the findings could be used when revising dietary guidelines.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is an inability to pay attention, concentrate, or complete tasks. It occurs in adults and children; sometimes accompanied by hyperactivity. Previously ADHD was called ADD (attention deficit disorder), but experts now refer to this disorder as ADHD and differentiate three types: inattentive, hyperactive-compulsive, and combined.
ADHD may be related to deficiencies in specific nutrients. Supplementation might improve some of ADHD symptoms.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are the most important nutrients in ADHD. A deficiency of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) has been linked to ADHD. Deficiencies in PUFAs cause ADHD symptoms. Supplementing with PUFAs for 12 weeks produces improvement in ADHD symptoms in children with specific learning difficulties (dyslexia).
Vitamins provide protection from free radical damage and support neurotransmitter metabolism. Multivitamin/mineral supplements given to children with behavioral conditions similar to ADHD controlled antisocial behavior. Poor nutrition in children causes low blood-level concentrations of water-soluble vitamins and impairs brain function; possibly leading to serious antisocial behavior. Correcting low vitamin concentrations in blood improves brain function and antisocial behavior.
Mineral supplements are beneficial in controlling ADHD. Magnesium levels are low in ADHD; supplementation with magnesium reduces hyperactivity. Zinc is a cofactor for production of neurotransmitters, fatty acids, prostaglandins, and melatonin, and indirectly affects metabolism of dopamine and fatty acids, all of which are factors in ADHD. Lower serum zinc levels are found in healthy, normally nourished children with ADHD compared to children without ADHD. Zinc deficiency may cause poor response to stimulant therapy.
Zinc is a mineral essential for formation of superoxide dismutase, one of the body’s most important free radical scavengers and one that cannot be directly supplemented. Zinc also promotes wound healing, immune function, taste sensitivity, protein synthesis, insulin production, and reproduction including organ development and sperm motility.
The effect of more than the recommended daily amount (RDA), depending on age, of vitamins and nutrients for children are largely unknown. Children’s Formula Life Extension Mix contains ingredients from Life Extension Mix in amounts that are suitable for children 1-1/2 years and older.
This supplement should be taken in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise program. Individual results are not guaranteed and results may vary.
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