Other people have written whole books about zinc and the implications of deficiency, inadequate dietary intake and those who have an increased need for this mineral. I am going to concentrate on just one aspect of it, because it is topical for me. Teenage boys.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral, present in all tissues, and which occurs in the body in large amounts, second only to iron. It is well known for its important role in the immune system and the body’s ability to heal and repair both internal and external wounds and also for the regulation of the skin’s oil gland function.
It is an essential component in the absorption of vitamins, particularly Vitamins A and B Complex and plays a major part in digestion and metabolism. Vitamins A and B are also critical for the effective function of the liver; poor liver function causes chronic fatigue and poor utilisation of nutrients. You see how it’s all linked? Our bodies are constantly striving for stasis, which is why a balanced diet is so important.
Zinc is predominantly absorbed in the small intestine and the body only absorbs what it needs, the rest is excreted. A diet which is too high in fibre will result in zinc deficiency as it binds the zinc and carries it away before it can be absorbed.
Zinc is essential for all growth, including sexual maturity. It is also thought to increase male sex drive because of its ability to regulate testosterone in the prostate.
A deficiency of zinc can be at the root of much of the ghastliness of teenage boys. How often have we been confronted with a spotty, greasy, lacklustre, lanky specimen of humanity who is constantly tired yet restless and unable to concentrate? Teenage boys are particularly prone to growth spurts and the demands of this, coupled with the physical demands of puberty frequently deplete the body’s resources of zinc. Boys also often seem to crave milk during their teenage years and, although calcium is also vital, large amounts of it can adversely affect the absorption of zinc.
Boy the Elder is showing signs of such ghastliness on all fronts, particularly the spots and the outrageous and expensive growing that he insists upon doing. At 13, he is 5’7” and has size 9 feet and this all takes its toll on a chap. He has a stupidly healthy and varied diet but there’re only so many herrings I can shovel into him during the average day.
I, too, suffer from acne which, in my case is definitely hormonal and I have to keep up a constant regime of skincare to keep it under control. We may be at opposite ends of the chronological scale, but the causes are similar. Hormones. When Pandora opened that box, it wasn’t all the evils of the world that floated out, it was hormones, I’m convinced of it.
To this end, we have both started taking a zinc supplement in the form of a 15mg tablet (amino acid chelate), once a day. Within a week, my skin has shown tremendous improvement. Boy the Elder’s skin is slowly improving but we have found that the supplement has to be taken every day without fail for it to be effective. Washing his face would also help, but that is much harder to do apparently. He is also definitely more lively and less irritable towards his brother. Result.
The recommended daily zinc intake according to the National Research Council is:-
Children aged 1-10 = 10mg
Males aged 11 upwards = 15mg
Women aged 11 upwards = 12mg
Good sources of zinc include: fish (especially the oily varieties), shellfish, chicken, meat, green leafy vegetables, green peas, pulses, nuts, egg yolks, and wholegrains.
Soil exhaustion and the processing of food negatively affect the presence of zinc in our food and organic, natural, unprocessed foods generally contain higher levels of zinc.
So, if you want your Neanderthal son to buck up, have a go at wacking up the zinc; you may be pleasantly surprised.
‘The Nutritional Almanac’ by Gayla J Kirschmann and John D Kirschmann. Pub. McGraw-Hill, fourth ed. 1996
‘Nutritional Medicine’ by Dr Stephen Davies & Dr Alan Stewart. Pub. Pan 1987
The Complete A-Z of Common Ailments and their Natural Remedies’ by Judy Jacka. Pub.Foulsham 1995
‘The Manual of Conventional Medicine for Alternative Practitioners’ by Stephen Gascoigne. Pub. Jigme Press 1996