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Does Zinc Help Teenagers Think Better?

I've posted numerous times on my Web site how I've used zinc lozenges to treat colds in my practice for more than 16 years, far before it was popular to do so. And, an article I posted two years ago by Dr. Ananda S. Prasad highlighted the use of zinc to treat hepatic encephalopathy and sickle cell disease.

Such uses led me to this interesting study about the addition of 20 milligrams of zinc five days a week to the diets of junior students leading to improvements in their attention spans and memories. This extra zinc boosted the attention and performance of seventh-graders over students who didn't receive the supplement.

Teens were divided into three groups who drank 4 ounces of fruit juice with 10- or 20-milligram supplements of zinc, or none at all, for 10 weeks, then were given a number of tests to measure the mineral's effectiveness. It wasn't terribly surprising for me to learn teens in the 20-milligram group performed better than the others. What did surprise me: Researchers found kids who received no zinc did better than those who were given the 10-milligram doses.

Although science doesn't understand exactly how zinc made such an impact on cognitive functioning, such links have been studied and found previously in very young children and adults. The lead researcher on this study suspects older children may be at risk for zinc deficiency, especially during their rapid growth spurt in puberty, which could account for the difference. The stated daily requirement for teens ranges from 9-11 milligrams and 8 milligrams for kids, ages 9-13.

One major caution: The key to supplement use is to understand who needs them and when. This usually involves an individual assessment so that the individual with the disease is treated, and not the disease. This is an important distinction. If you supplement with nutrients like zinc indiscriminately, they can cause quite serious damage. I have seen this happen all too frequently in many well-intentioned professionals and patients.

Yahoo News April 4, 2005

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