Zinc supplementation improved mental performance of 7th-grade boys and girls

Seventh graders given 20 mg zinc, five days per week, for 10 to 12 weeks showed improvement in mental performance, responding more quickly and accurately on memory tasks and with more sustained attention, than classmates who received no additional zinc. Beneficial effects were seen regardless of the youngsters' previous zinc status. Dr. James G. Penland, Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, presented the findings at Experimental Biology 2005, as part of the scientific sessions of the American Society of Nutritional Sciences. Although zinc nutrition has been related to motor, cognitive and psychosocial function in very young children and adults, this is the first study of its effect in adolescents. Zinc deficiency is not uncommon, even in nations such as the United States, and the risk is particularly high in adolescents, says Dr. Penland, because they are undergoing rapid growth and often have poor eating habits.

In the study, 209 seventh graders, 111 girls and 98 boys, consumed four ounces of fruit juice containing either 0, 10 or 20 mg of zinc gluconate each school day for 10 to 12 weeks. Students, their parents and teachers did not know who was receiving which, if any, zinc supplementation until the study was completed. At the beginning and end of the study, students performed a battery of tasks designed to measure mental and motor skills, like attention, memory, problem-solving and hand-eye coordination.

Examples include tapping a key on the keyboard as fast as possible, using a mouse to follow an object moving across the screen, searching a group of objects for two of a kind, learning and remembering lists of words or simple geometric patterns, and categorizing objects. Students, their parents, and teachers filled out questionnaires about the students' mental, physical and social abilities and skills, school performance, and problems in any of these ar

Contact: Sarah Goodwin
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

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