We are continuing our look at Chapter 8 of “The Well Balanced Child: Movement and Early Learning” by Sally Goddard Blythe with this interesting chapter on feeding, growth and brain development. The authors takes a look at several important nutrients and the research surrounding their effect on brain development. This post is going to look at zinc, because I think it is surprising the amount of research conducted on this one mineral.
Zinc – is essential for all aspects of development, and affects sperm production and fertility but also successful outcome of pregnancy and maternal behavior. Studies looking at zinc deficient diets in the pregnancies of rats showed that these rats failed to mother their offspring. The baby rats showed lethargy, reduced weight gain, and increase in emotionality compared to those rats fed a zinc-enriched diet. Growth, sexual maturity, learning ability, resistance to stress, and behavioral control are all linked to zinc. Depression, sensitivity to light, impaired sense of taste and smell, and anorexia and bulimia are all linked to lower zinc levels.
More than that, the chapter sites a source as saying, “….a number of diseases hitherto considered to be genetic in origin may be related to familial zinc deficiency, which then affects the expression of genetic potential within members of the same family.” In other words, it is almost as if zinc deficiency is passed along from generation to generation because of the role it plays in formation of DNA and RNA.
The Foresight organization for prenatal care has a list of things associated with zinc deficiency including difficult labor, breast feeding difficulties, decreased bonding and post partum depression on the maternal side, and for the children, poor growth and development. You can learn more about Foresight if you are not aware of this organization here: http://www.foresight-preconception.org.uk/
Zinc deficiency is a problem due to modern farming methods that neglects crop rotation, along with other reasons discussed in this chapter.
The author notes, “It would be wrong to see zinc as the answer to the source of all ills. It does, however, provide an example of how important it is to maintain a wide range of individual elements in feeding habits. Shortage of one element can affect the way the body utilizes many others.”
Sources of zinc, according to this chapter, include lean meat, oysters, ginger root, oats, egg yolk, whole wheat and rye, shrimp and tuna, split peas, chicken, lentils, cauliflower, spinach and cabbage. Spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, paprika, and chili powder also have zinc in them.