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Zinc may improve certain mental health symptoms among children

by Deesha Patel

More and more children are being diagnosed with mental illnesses, be it depression, anxiety, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in five children in the United States currently have or will have a debilitating mental illness. If children are diagnosed with a mental illness, they are often given conventional, prescription treatment. However, observational studies have previously shown that zinc supplementation may be a possible alternative treatment.

DiGirolamo et al. examined the impact of zinc supplementation on the mental health symptoms of Guatemalan children through a randomized, double-blinded, controlled trial. The 674 children, who were in grades one through four, were randomized into the placebo group or the treatment groups; the latter group received 10 mg of zinc supplementation daily for five days per week over a six-month period. The researchers measured serum zinc concentrations, internalizing symptoms (depression and anxiety), externalizing symptoms (hyperactivity and contact disorder), problem behaviors, and positive behaviors (socialization and leadership).

There were no statistically significant differences between the treatment and placebo groups in regards to decreases in mental health symptoms. However, a general increase in serum zinc concentration (regardless of group assignment) was associated with decreases in internalizing symptoms. It is important to note that these Guatemalan children were at risk for zinc deficiency. Future studies are needed to evaluate the role of zinc supplementation for mental health symptoms in those who are not at risk for zinc deficiency.


References
1. National Institute of Mental Health. Any Disorder Among Children. National Institute of Mental Health. July 29, 2010. Available at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics/1ANYDIS_CHILD.shtml.
2. DiGirolamo AM, Ramirez-Zea M, Wang M, et al. Randomized trial of the effect of zinc supplementation on the mental health of school-age children in Guatemala. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(5).

This article was published on Thursday December 23, 2010.
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