Magnesium and Zinc for Child Development

Magnesium and Zinc for Child Development

Children need many things. Some of them are far more important than an ever-out-of-stock game console or a cool new pair of shoes.

Growing children have many nutritional needs, and these needs are relatively simple to meet. They do not require special vitamins or minerals that are not part of the average adult's diet.

Adults need vitamins and minerals to repair and maintain healthy and functioning systems in their bodies.

Likewise, children need vitamins and minerals to build healthy and functioning systems, making deficiency a significant concern for parents of picky eaters or children with dietary restrictions.

If you have concerns about your child's growth or want to ensure that you do everything possible to support their growth, consider your child's zinc and magnesium intake.

If your pediatrician has raised concerns, a dietary change or addition of a complete child's supplement may be necessary.

Zinc and Magnesium Are Actually Minerals

Zinc and magnesium are often included in the vitamin category or included in multivitamin supplements, but are not vitamins. Zinc and magnesium are essential minerals that the body cannot produce on its own.

This means we have to get it from outside sources, such as through our diet or using supplements.

Vitamins are things that come from organic sources, such as fruits and vegetables. Minerals are inorganic. They occur naturally in rocks, soil, and other things we shouldn't eat directly.

Instead, our food absorbs minerals through the soil in which they grow (or in the case of shellfish and some fish, things that are consumed from the ocean floor) and passes the minerals on to our bodies.

Importance of Minerals

Minerals help make and repair bones, muscles, and organs. The body also uses it to produce enzymes and hormones. The creation of new bone and tissue and the production of hormones are two important processes in a child's growth.

Although deficiency is detrimental to adult adults, the effects are long-term and very real consequences for growing children.

How Zinc Supports Child Growth

Zinc functions to support cell growth, body metabolism, and cell differentiation processes. As a result, children who are zinc deficient may have difficulty fighting infection and may experience stunted growth.

Zinc is especially important for children under the age of five, and children with zinc deficiency may not grow to reach their full potential.

Severe zinc deficiency is very rare in children. Most children in developed countries will not develop severe zinc deficiency. However, mild or moderate forms of zinc deficiency may be common in some children. Your pediatrician will be able to assess your child for zinc deficiency.

How Magnesium Supports Your Child's Growth

Magnesium is needed by the body to use vitamin D, and vitamin D is needed by the body to use calcium. This chain of important events leads to the growth and strengthening of bones, two important processes in a child's development. Your child will have accumulated up to 40% of their total bone mass when they were children and up to 90% of their bone mass by the age of 18. Deficiency or difficulty in accumulating bone mass can have long-term consequences.

Many young adults experience at least some magnesium deficiency. This is a preventable problem that requires early solutions for sustainable health into adulthood.

How Much Zinc and Magnesium Does a Child Need?

Health organizations have reached a consensus on the daily recommended amounts of zinc and magnesium for children from 1 to 13 years of age. These needs will change in adolescence and adulthood.

A small avocado contains about 0.5 mg of zinc as a frame of reference, and a medium-sized banana contains about 30 mg of magnesium.

Zinc Recommendations by Age

  1. one to three years - 3 mg daily
  2. four to eight years - 5 mg daily
  3. nine to thirteen years - 8 mg daily

Magnesium Recommendations by Age

  1. one to trhee years - 80 mg daily
  2. four to eight years - 130 mg daily
  3. nine to thirteen years - 240 mg daily

While these guidelines are a great framework, some children may need different amounts. For example, children with absorption problems or problems related to gut health may have much higher needs, because their bodies may not be able to effectively process and use all the zinc or magnesium they take in.

Foods High in Zinc and Magnesium

Zinc is found in meat, shellfish, milk, eggs, beans, nuts, and dark chocolate. Shellfish, milk, eggs, tree nuts, and peanuts are among the eight most common food allergies. Animal products are not suitable for children on a vegan diet. For some households, helping children get enough zinc through their diet can be tricky.

Magnesium is commonly found in nuts, legumes, fish, and soy products. So fish and soy are the other two missing pieces in the "big 8" food allergy.

If your household is an omnivore and no one has severe food allergies, it shouldn't be difficult to help your child meet their daily needs through the foods they eat -- unless you have a picky eater, which can be a challenge.

Foods such as bananas, whole grains, seeds, and leafy greens are safe sources of essential minerals for food and plant allergens, but may not be enough to prevent deficiency in some children.

Children need to consume large amounts of these foods every day to meet their needs, and many children will quickly get bored with green leafy vegetables and bananas on a daily basis.


Zinc and magnesium are both essential for a child's growth and development.

Unfortunately, mild to moderate zinc deficiency is very common in children, and if not treated early, it can have severe consequences for your child's health.

If you can't get adequate amounts of essential nutrients into your child's diet, supplements may be necessary. First, discuss zinc and magnesium intake with your child's pediatrician.

After the assessment, your pediatrician will be able to advise you on your child's specific needs. This sometimes involves taking multivitamin supplements.

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