Are Your Kids Getting Enough Zinc?
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When my daughter, Molly, was 6 years old and dropped from the 25th percentile in height to below the 3rd percentile, we knew something was wrong. Exactly what was wrong was hard to pinpoint, since her weight was fine, and she was an energetic, happy kid. Still, we had her tested for everything under the sun: anemia, thyroid problems, Turner syndrome, celiac disease. She had none of them. Her pediatrician determined she was just naturally short, as am I (though I am 5’1’’—and her dad is 5’11’’— and at the rate Molly was going, she’d be more like 4’10’’).
Some time later, her gastroenterologist (who she saw for GERD) found that Molly’s zinc level was low. I wondered how that could be since I am religious about giving her a daily multivitamin. It turns out that commonly prescribed chewable multivitamins with fluoride (like Poly-Vi-Flor)—which our pediatrician prescribes because our water supply isn’t fluoridated—don’t contain zinc. And it turns out that zinc is necessary for a host of things, like immune function, wound healing … and growth. Recent studies have shown that zinc deficiency is linked to short stature.
The Beef Connection
It also turns out that our bodies more easily absorb zinc from animal sources—like beef—than from plant sources, and whole grains actually interfere with zinc absorption. So, even if your child’s favorite cereal and the bread with which you make her sandwiches are fortified with zinc, if her multivitamin doesn’t contain the mineral, she could still be deficient. To make matters worse, our bodies can’t store zinc, so we need a continuous supply every day.
Molly’s drop in height percentile coincided almost exactly with her giving up meat. She used to love hamburgers as much as your average truck driver, but when she learned where they came from, she gave them up cold turkey. Speaking of turkey, when she got a Webkinz version of the Thanksgiving bird, she wanted to be done with poultry, too. I forced her to eat it sometimes, but I wasn’t vigilant. After all, haven’t we been bombarded with media reports telling us how much healthier a plant-based diet is than the typical, meat-based Western diet? Eating too much animal protein has been linked to everything from heart disease to colon cancer. And Molly was an otherwise good eater: She ate plenty of bean dishes, drank the amount of milk recommended by her pediatrician, and loved fruits and vegetables. So if she wanted to keep the meat to a minimum that was fine by me.
The Vitamin Solution—>