Why a Zinc Deficiency May be Contributing to Your Child's Pickiness
There are SO MANY THINGS that can be causing your child's picky eating behavior. From sensory/tactile issues, to food allergies and intolerances, the cause and cure can seem impossible to figure out. Limited food intake, including few different foods accepted, can make the problem even harder to figure out. There is often a vicious cycle of unwillingness to try new foods which then results in a limited variety of foods eaten. The fewer different foods a child eats the more likely they are to be deficient in one or more vitamins and minerals. Often, the deficiency can make the appetite disappear, and can affect taste and smell. This is especially the case with zinc.
Zinc is an important nutrient. It is a trace mineral that is vital for a healthy immune system. Research has shown that taking zinc for five months before and even within 24 hours of catching a cold can actually shorten the cold recovery time.
Besides iron, zinc is the most concentrated trace mineral found in the human body. It is also important for wound healing. In fact, a common practice in long-term care facilities is to give zinc and Vitamin C supplements to patients JUST IN CASE they develop a wound, or in order to prevent a wound from developing.
Adequate zinc also helps to ensure proper growth in children as well as a healthy appetite. Not only does a lack of zinc in the diet affect appetite, it also affects taste and smell.
Symptoms of zinc deficiency include:
Hypogonadism in males
Loss of hair
Problems with the sense of taste
Problems with the sense of smell
Trouble seeing in the dark
Wounds that take a long time to heal
Although in the ideal world, everyone would eat all the right foods in all the right amounts, this is obviously not the case. As a result, I normally encourage parents of picky kids to take a multivitamin w/minerals to help offset the potential nutrient imbalances. Unfortunately, gummy vitamins do not have sufficient minerals of any kind in them. (My son is 13 and is taking an adult multivitamin currently).
I really do not recommend megadoses of any one nutrient unless there is a proven reason for it. This is because when a person takes an excessive amount of one nutrient, it can make it difficult for the body to digest other important nutrients.
The best and safest way to ensure proper nutrition is through the diet. However, if there is a severe deficiency, and your child doesn't eat much, it may be necessary to supplement. How much to give your child really depends on the level of deficiency, the age and weight of your child, and other factors. So, if you suspect that your child might have a zinc deficiency, I suggest you have them tested first.
So, how do you determine if your child has a zinc deficiency? Unfortunately, traditional blood tests will not be able to rule out a zinc deficiency. There is one test that may at least help determine if zinc deficiency is a possibility. It's called the “Zinc Taste Test.” However, it is probably not all that accurate either. And it might be difficult to get a picky eater to cooperate anyway. It you can convince your child, It might not hurt to try it, but I would talk to your child's doctor first. In the meantime, it will be helpful to know what the best sources of zinc are.
Keep in mind that often a person will crave something they are low in. For example, my son loves seafood. Despite that he is so picky, he will eat oysters, octopus, clams, squid (I know, right?).
Good Sources of Zinc
oysters, and some other types of seafood
fortified breakfast cereals