Iron and zinc both play significant roles in your ability to concentrate, especially on demanding tasks involving memory and reasoning, Researchers don't know exactly how iron and zinc affect your mental function, but recent studies indicate that even a slight deficiency will show up right away as a problem with memory and attention span, even before a blood test can detect low levels, Kretsch claims.
A Pediatrics study in 2001 found that adolescents who were iron-deficient did worse on math tests than their counterparts with normal iron levels. The British Journal of Nutrition published a study in 2001 that showed that a zinc deficiency can interfere with communication between brain cells. And Kretsch's research indicates that there's a direct relationship between iron and zinc levels and poor attention and memory: People with the lowest amount of those minerals also have greater cognitive difficulties. Kretsch is currently studying whether cognitive impairment can be reversed by increasing levels of iron and zinc through diet and supplementation.Mary Kretsch, Ph.D., research physiologist with the government's Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, Calif.
Zinc levels also strongly correlate to ADHD patients. Psychiatry department researchers at Technical University in Turkey compared 48 ADHD children to 45 non-ADHD children. While free fatty acid levels in blood serum were nearly four times lower in ADHD children, mean serum zinc levels in ADHD patients were also less than half the levels of the controls.Bekaroglu M, et al. Relationships between serum free fatty acids and zinc, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a research note. J Child Psychol Psychiatry 1996 Feb;37(2):225-7.
34 women between the ages of 18 and 40 performed within normal range of memory when slightly deficient in zinc and iron. However, when they were given either 30 mg of zinc or iron daily, they made gains up to 20 percent higher on standard tests for memory. Control patients given only a multivitamin/mineral supplement daily showed no improvement. Sandstead explains that the gains were minimal when these two trace minerals were taken together. Zinc and iron, in supplement form, block each other's absorption, but not when they are in foods, as part of the diet.In a study by Harold Sandstead, M.D., at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston ("Zinc-Iron Supplements Boost Memory," University of Texas Medical Branch, July 1991 [press release].,
The book, Build Your Brain Power, by Arthur Winter, M.D., and Ruth Winter, cites animal and human studies revealing that zinc deficiency brings on "memory and learning impairment."
Linus Pauling Institute: Zinc is an essential trace element for all forms of life. The significance of zinc in human nutrition and public health was recognized relatively recently. Numerous aspects of cellular metabolism are zinc-dependent. Zinc plays important roles in growth and development, the immune response, neurological function, and reproduction.
Catalytic role:Nearly 100 different enzymes depend on zinc for their ability to catalyze vital chemical reactions. Zinc-dependent enzymes can be found in all known classes of enzymes
Structural role:The structure and function of cell membranes are also affected by zinc. Loss of zinc from biological membranes increases their susceptibility to oxidative damage and impairs their function
Deficiency: Mild zinc deficiency contributes to impaired physical and neuropsychological development,
Prevention of Diseases related to zinc deficency: Impaired growth and development
Additionally, zinc supplementation was associated with better neuropsychologic functioning (e.g., attention) in Chinese first grade students, but only when zinc was provided with other micronutrients
Although initial studies suggest that zinc deficiency may depress cognitive development in young children, more controlled research is required to determine the nature of the effect and whether zinc supplementation is beneficial
Reviewed by: Janet C. King, Ph.D., R.D.- Director and Professor - Western Human Nutrition Research Center - University of California, Davis
Zinc: Association suggested between zinc deficiency and ADHD. Serum zinc levels in ADHD group were significantly lower than controls, Zinc Deficiency in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Toren, et al, Biol. Psychiatry, 1996;40:1308-1310.
Zinc deficiency may make children irritable, tearful, sullen and have gaze aversion, Moyna Han, Zinc Deficiency and Disturbances of Mood and Visula Behavior, Lancet, 1:91, 1976.
Dr. Penland produced the first evidence that zinc supplementation of young children may improve cognition and psychomotor function. Treatment with Zinc was associated with improved attention (continuous vigilance task), reasoning (oddity task) and psychomotor function (tapping and tracking tasks) Mineral Element Nutrition, Neurophsychological Function and Behavior Research Laboratory
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