Med diet satisfies growing teens’ zinc requirements

By Oliver Nieburg

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Zinc Public health nutrition Nutrition

The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruit and olive oil and low in meat
The Mediterranean diet is high in vegetables, fruit and olive oil and low in meat
Young people aged 11-14 can eat a healthy Mediterranean diet and get all the zinc they need to help them grow, according to researchers.

The research by Marta Mesias et al.​ published in the Public Health Nutrition Journal found that a diet high in cereals, legumes and veg and low in meat could provide adequate zinc amounts even though these foods have typically been thought to reduce the bioavailability of minerals.

Med diet meets needs

“The Mediterranean diet has been proposed as one of the healthiest dietary models available,”​ said the study.

“Although a diet based on Mediterranean patterns is associated with factors which can affect​ Zn [zinc] absorption, such as high consumption of phytate, its consumption in adequate amounts allows Zn status to be maintained during adolescence.

The study found that a med diet could account for 76% of the Spanish recommended daily intake of zinc.

Although, the diet did not meet 100% of Spanish zinc standards, the researchers called Spain’s recommendations “unnecessarily high”.​ 

Why zinc is important

Zinc intake during puberty is crucial to a young person’s growth. It has been linked to aiding maturation and skeletal growth. Without it young people’s physical, intellectual and sexual development can be stunted.

The authors of the present study said that despite the importance of zinc during puberty, many young people failed meet their zinc needs due to poor quality diets.

The study suggested that young people could obtain a whole host of other benefits from a med diet, such as protection against chronic diseases, while also getting all the zinc they needed to help them grow.


To reach these conclusions, researchers gave twenty males aged between 11 and 14 a menu parallel to Mediterranean diet.

The menu contained high contents of fish, legumes, cereals, fruits and veg and lower amounts of meat. Participants were told to eat foods from this menu for a 28-day period.

Researchers measured zinc levels through participants’ faeces and urine by flame atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Zinc status biomarkers were also analysed.

They concluded that zinc levels from a Mediterranean diet were high enough and said that further longer-term studies should be conducted to confirm the suitability of diet for zinc requirements.


Public Health Nutrition: 15(8), 1429–1436
doi: 10.1017/S1368980011003429
‘Is the Mediterranean diet adequate to satisfy zinc requirements during adolescence?’
Authors: Marta Mesias, Isabel Seiquer and M Pilar Navarro

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