What are the Benefits of Zinc Supplements for Kids?

Nov 10, 2022 9:34:12 AM

Written By:
Dr. Matt Hand

kids supplementing

Zinc supplementation has grown in popularity, and we’ve identified a few key reasons why zinc supplements have been selling out in stores across the country. Dubbed the “omega-3 of the elements,” zinc is widely known for immune support and mood improvement among adults. Experts now realize that this essential mineral is also  generally safe and effective for kids, as well.

why is zinc important?

A naturally occurring metallic trace element, zinc is considered essential for humans. This means that although it plays crucial roles in body function, we cannot produce zinc ourselves—we have to consume it from external sources. Because the body cannot store zinc, we have to source it daily, either in zinc-rich foods like meat, seeds, and eggs, or through high-quality supplementation.

Zinc is an important mineral for supporting a variety of functions and processes in bodies of all sizes. Appropriate levels of zinc aid in:

  • Protein synthesis (building collagen)
  • Enzymatic reactions (taste and smell)
  • DNA synthesis (normal cell division)
  • Gene expression (cells’ ability to adapt to their current environment)
  • Growth and development (cognitive function)
  • Skin health (wound repair)

Zinc’s role in immune function is one of its best known attributes. It allows cells to communicate between one another about danger or invaders, boosts the activity of T-cells and natural killer cells, and helps cells turn over at their designed intervals.

Research is also highlighting how zinc supports physical processes, like repairing a skinned knee, and cognitive functions, like enhancing mood and focus.[1]

are kids zinc deficient? 

If zinc is naturally available in commonly eaten foods like red meat, seafood, poultry, potatoes, squash, nuts, seeds, and even dark chocolate, how can anyone be deficient in this important  mineral?

People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are most at risk, as the zinc in meat and seafood is most readily available and absorbed by the body. Children with gastrointestinal conditions are also at higher risk for zinc deficiency.  

Zinc deficiency can be serious and include some or all of these discomforts:

  • Low appetite
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Loose stools
  • Low moods
  • Thinning hair
  • Frequent respiratory or seasonal discomforts

Zinc is a necessary component in the metabolism of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is known for its role in supporting healthy sleep cycles, but it is also important in regulating dopamine. Low dopamine levels can lead to difficulty with attention, focus, and learning.

how to use zinc supplements

Supplementation with zinc, preferably in the highly absorbable form of zinc citrate or gluconate, is most readily used in children with loose stools. The WHO cites at least 450,000 deaths annually around the world in children under five years old due to zinc deficiency.[2] As a result of this data, WHO and UNICEF have spurred various programs to ensure more children have access to the zinc supplements they need.

While it is challenging to test for isolated zinc levels in the body, in the United States zinc is less prevalent in the food supply due to nutrient depleted soil. Fortified foods like rice and cereal contain zinc that has much lower bioavailability for absorption.[3] 

It’s crucial to be proactive about supporting healthy levels of zinc in children, as low levels early on can impact their growth, development, and immune system functioning well into adulthood. Check out our previous blog to learn more about zinc, its importance in a myriad of processes in the body and mind, and how to supplement effectively.

The Food and Nutrition Board cites the following Recommended Daily Allowances for zinc in children by age:

Infants (0–6 months)

2 mg

Infants (7 months to 1 year)

3 mg

Children (1–3 years)


Children (4–8 years)

5 mg

Children (9–13 years)

8 mg

Males (14–18 years)

11 mg

Females (14–18 years)

9 mg


Zinc is a micronutrient, so the amounts needed daily are usually attainable with a varied diet containing meat and vegetables. When supplementation is desired, the amount can surpass the RDA for short-term use. Too-high levels of zinc for a prolonged time period of time can lead to unpleasant issues like loose stools or an upset stomach. It’s always best to speak with your integrative doctor about introducing new supplements.

This chewable supplement for children contains 23 mg of zinc and is designed for occasional use in supporting throat tissue. Zinc supplements are commonly used to support a healthy immune system for a short time when seasonal threats are high.[4]

related content: how to support gut health in kids

what to think about zinc for kids

Research  on zinc shows promise for its use in supporting mental health and emotional wellbeing in children.[5] Since appearing in classical Greek texts as a wound remedy, zinc has also been used to calm anxious thoughts and emotions and enhance mood via regulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine.[6]

Zinc is known to help shorten the duration of seasonal health discomforts, and supplementation with zinc is generally safe and well tolerated in both adults and children. Beyond its use to address acute respiratory concerns, zinc can also be a part of regular preventative wellness.  

All in all, zinc can be an excellent addition to your supplement regime for supporting immune function and mental and emotional health.


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[1]Dodig-Curković K, Dovhanj J, Curković M, Dodig-Radić J, Degmecić D. Uloga cinka u lijecenju hiperaktivnog poremećaja u djece [The role of zinc in the…in children]. Acta Med Croatica. 2009 Oct;63(4):307-13. Croatian. PMID: 20034331.

[2] Ahsan AK, Tebha SS, Sangi R, Kamran A, Zaidi ZA, Haque T, Ali Hamza MS. Zinc Micronutrient Deficiency and Its Prevalence in Malnourished Pediatric Children as Compared to Well-Nourished Children: A Nutritional Emergency. Glob Pediatr Health. 2021 Oct 8;8:2333794X211050316. doi: 10.1177/2333794X211050316. PMID: 34660849; PMCID: PMC8511936.

[3] Alloway BJ. Soil factors associated with zinc deficiency in crops and humans. Environ Geochem Health. 2009 Oct;31(5):537-48. doi: 10.1007/s10653-009-9255-4. PMID: 19291414.

[4] Prasad AS. Zinc in human health: effect of zinc on immune cells. Mol Med. 2008 May-Jun;14(5-6):353-7. doi: 10.2119/2008-00033.Prasad. PMID: 18385818; PMCID: PMC2277319.

[5] DiGirolamo AM, Ramirez-Zea M. Role of zinc in maternal and child mental health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Mar;89(3):940S-945S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26692C. Epub 2009 Jan 28. PMID: 19176735; PMCID: PMC2714398.

[6] Cope EC, Levenson CW. Role of zinc in the development and treatment of mood… Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2010 Nov;13(6):685-9. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32833df61a. PMID: 20689416.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.