Many thanks to Danielle Voller for writing up this topic for me. I was asked this question by a mum who had heard that Downs syndrome kids all needed to be taking zinc tablets.
Zinc plays a central role in the maintenance of the immune system, and is important for growth and development in children. Zinc is found naturally in foods such as red meat, poultry, fish/seafood, whole cereals and dairy food.
It has generally been thought that children with downs syndrome have lower levels of zinc than typically developing children, however this is yet to be scientifically proven. A recent study measuring the nutrient requirements of downs syndrome children (that were very overweight) , showed that the reported energy intake was restricted in these kids, meaning that the overall vitamin and mineral intake was low, which resulted in deficiencies. This specific study recommended a multivitamin and mineral supplement in these children with restricted diets.
One study showed a potential benefit in supplementing downs syndrome children with zinc, reporting improved immune function and accelerated growth, however another study showed no evidence to support the use of zinc supplement in downs syndrome children.
When searched in google, the majority of websites suggest that there is a need to supplement zinc in children with downs syndrome, as some of the problems associated with downs syndrome may be caused by the lack of zinc. Others suggest that long term, a healthy, nutritious diet will be most beneficial.
The bottom line is that it is important for your child to be having a balanced diet including a range of vitamins and minerals. Based on the evidence at hand, zinc or multivitamin supplementation is not something that should be given to every child. To ensure your child is receiving the best nutrition, visit your local Accredited Practising Dietitian to get some individual advice.