Sean E. Heerey ND, MA, CCC/SLP

Why does food taste funny?
Many parents report that their children won’t try new foods. Or maybe the complaint is that the food has no taste. Children tend to eat the same restricted set of foods regularly, which may lead to other issues such as nutrient deficiencies.

This problem can persist into adulthood. Could it be a zinc deficiency? In patients with impaired taste function, supplementing with zinc improved taste sensation.

Zinc is a critical part of a salivary protein called gustin. Studies show that treatment with zinc leads to increased gustin levels and improvements in taste.

Many medications cause zinc levels to be depleted, such as blood pressure medications, anti-virals, cholesterol-lowering medications, corticosteroids, birth control pills and H2 blockers (Axid®, Pepcid®, Zantac®). In addition to improvements in taste, zinc plays a critical role in the proper functioning of the body’s immune system.

Studies and clinical observations have shown that zinc lozenges shorten the duration of cold symptoms in adults. Zinc is required for a numerous activities related to cell reproduction and wound healing. It is involved in the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates for energy consumption and needed for optimal thyroid hormone production.

Long-term supplementation with zinc can lead to copper or folic acid deficiency, so it is recommended to supplement with these other nutrients as well.
Supplementation of zinc and essential fatty acids at the same time may be more effective than taking these 2 nutrients by themselves. Small children may take 10 mg a day with food. Older children can start with 30 mg a day with food. Intranasal use of zinc, i.e., placing it directly on your nasal passages, is not recommended as it can cause long-lasting or permanent loss of smell.

Consult with your health care provider for optimal dosing. Foods that are rich in zinc include: beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkins seeds, cashews, spinach, lentils and garbanzo beans.