Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Grand Forks, North Dakota » Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center » Healthy Body Weight Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #183310

Title: ZINC AND OTHER MINERAL NUTRIENTS REQUIRED FOR COGNITIVE FUNCTION AND BEHAVIOR IN MILITARY PERSONNEL

Author
item PENLAND, JAMES

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/26/2005
Publication Date: 3/22/2006
Citation: Penland, J.G. 2006. Zinc and other mineral nutrients required for cognitive function and behavior in military personnel. In: Institute of Medicine (editor), Mineral Requirements for Military Personnel: Levels Needed for Cognitive and Physical Performance During Garrison Training. Washington, DC,National Academies Press. p. 420-436.

Interpretive Summary: This review examines the possible role of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper and phosphorus in sustaining cognitive function and behavior of military personnel operating under multiple metabolic, physical, psychological and environmental stressors. There are no studies relating zinc intake or status to cognitive function or behavior in soldiers. Data from the few available studies with civilian adults suggest that zinc nutrition may have roles in cognitive function (particularly memory) and mood (particularly depression). This conclusion is supported by data from studies with animals, infants and children, and reasonable putative mechanisms can be identified. At this time however, data are insufficient to identify specific zinc intakes needed to support and maximize cognitive function and behavior in either civilians or military personnel. The importance of magnesium, selenium, copper and phosphorus for cognitive function and behavior has received little attention and is largely unknown. Available data suggest that magnesium is involved in regulating brain electrical activity and that increasing intake may benefit sleep and mood. Increasing selenium intake may benefit mood. Two studies in one laboratory suggest that copper nutrition may affect sleep and memory performance. There are no data to suggest any putative role for phosphorus in cognitive function or behavior. Evidence shows that military personnel fail to consume adequate amounts of zinc and magnesium. These minerals, as well as selenium, copper and phosphorus, may play important roles in promoting optimal cognitive function and behavior. Limited data on mineral intakes and status of soldiers in various types of training do not provide evidence of overt nutritional deficiencies, but this may be due to a lack of sensitive biochemical markers of nutritional status. It is difficult to discriminate the independent effect of severely restricted energy intake on potential micronutrient impairments. Nevertheless, cognitive and psychological impairments found in civilians with marginal mineral deficits are consistent with problems in these areas reported in soldiers during active training and operations. This review was written for the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Committee on Military Nutrition Research, Panel on Micronutrient Requirements for Cognitive and Physical Performance of Military Personnel.

Technical Abstract: This review examines the possible role of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper and phosphorus in sustaining cognitive function and behavior of military personnel operating under multiple metabolic, physical, psychological and environmental stressors. There are no studies relating zinc intake or status to cognitive function or behavior in soldiers. Data from the few available studies with civilian adults suggest that zinc nutrition may have roles in cognitive function (particularly memory) and mood (particularly depression). This conclusion is supported by data from studies with animals, infants and children, and reasonable putative mechanisms can be identified. At this time however, data are insufficient to identify specific zinc intakes needed to support and maximize cognitive function and behavior in either civilians or military personnel. The importance of magnesium, selenium, copper and phosphorus for cognitive function and behavior has received little attention and is largely unknown. Available data suggest that magnesium is involved in regulating brain electrical activity and that increasing intake may benefit sleep and mood. Increasing selenium intake may benefit mood. Two studies in one laboratory suggest that copper nutrition may affect sleep and memory performance. There are no data to suggest any putative role for phosphorus in cognitive function or behavior. Evidence shows that military personnel fail to consume adequate amounts of zinc and magnesium. These minerals, as well as selenium, copper and phosphorus, may play important roles in promoting optimal cognitive function and behavior. Limited data on mineral intakes and status of soldiers in various types of training do not provide evidence of overt nutritional deficiencies, but this may be due to a lack of sensitive biochemical markers of nutritional status. It is difficult to discriminate the independent effect of severely restricted energy intake on potential micronutrient impairments. Nevertheless, cognitive and psychological impairments found in civilians with marginal mineral deficits are consistent with problems in these areas reported in soldiers during active training and operations. This review was written for the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Committee on Military Nutrition Research, Panel on Micronutrient Requirements for Cognitive and Physical Performance of Military Personnel.