Hidden hunger for zinc
The “hidden hunger” is invisible and sometimes affects children who appear to be well nourished; it is defined as a micronutrient deficiency rather than a lack of calories. The most common deficiencies are iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc.

But it is quite rare to read about zinc de­fi­ciency. It weak­ens the im­mune sys­tem, for in­stance, and in­di­rectly con­tributes to­wards an­nual mor­tal­ity rates of around two mil­lion for chil­dren suf­fer­ing from in­fec­tious di­ar­rhoea dis­eases. How­ever, zinc is not only an im­por­tant el­e­ment in a healthy and strong im­mune sys­tem – it also con­tributes to the phys­i­cal and neu­ropsy­cho­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment of chil­dren and young adults. Stud­ies show that chil­dren with zinc de­fi­cien­cies often suf­fer from de­layed growth, ar­rested de­vel­op­ment, im­paired sight and poor wound heal­ing.

Zinc is a mi­cronu­tri­ent that is pre­sent in every human cell and is most highly con­cen­trated in mus­cles and bones. It plays a cru­cial role in the func­tion of around 300 en­zymes that are re­spon­si­ble for the me­tab­o­lism. This mi­cronu­tri­ent is also im­por­tant for bone for­ma­tion and for the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween brain cells. For in­stance, zinc ac­ti­vates the areas of the brain re­spon­si­ble for pro­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion for the taste and ol­fac­tory cells.

Wide­spread zinc de­fi­ciency

Our sys­tems can­not form zinc in­de­pen­dently so it has to be part of our diet. Foods such as lean meat, fish and seafood as well as milk prod­ucts in­clud­ing cheese and spe­cial in­fant for­mu­lae have a high zinc con­tent. Good plant sources of zinc in­clude whole­meal prod­ucts and wheat germ.

Around a bil­lion peo­ple are af­fected by a mild to se­vere zinc de­fi­ciency around the world. UNICEF works on the as­sump­tion that even in the 35 rich­est coun­tries in the world around 30 mil­lion chil­dren suf­fer from a “hid­den hunger” for zinc, pos­si­bly as a re­sult of one-di­men­sional or un­healthy nu­tri­tion. Un­for­tu­nately, there have been no na­tional stud­ies to date, al­though it is a highly cur­rent topic. The HOCHDORF Group is also en­gag­ing with the issue, in its cur­rent Baby Care range and in the chil­dren’s foods it is de­vel­op­ing. 

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