Lack of nutrition linked to teen suicide

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New Zealand has the highest teen suicide rate and the second highest incidence of child obesity in the developed world and it is long overdue for a national child nutrition review, pharmaceutical scientist Sir Ray Avery says.

Many countries around the world like New Zealand and the USA face the combination of under-nutrition and obesity due to fast food consumption. 

This results in people with obesity having micronutrient deficiencies, leading to diseases such as type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease, Avery says. 

“One of these linked overlaps is zinc deficiency. A complex, vicious cycle of chronic disease and zinc deficiency often exists in the same low-resource populations that preventive public health and nutrition strategies frequently fail to reach,” he says.

“New Zealand’s nutritional surveys conducted in 2002 found zinc deficiencies were more common in Maori and Pacific Island communities and that up to 20 percent of New Zealand’s adult population suffered from zinc deficiency.

“A number of chronic diseases and mental health morbidities and mortalities are caused by zinc deficiency.

“Inadequate zinc intake can cause behavioural, learning, cognitive skill problems inducing major depressive disorder (MDD), which is a serious psychiatric illness associated with an increasing rate of suicide.

“There is overwhelming evidence in the scientific literature that zinc deficiencies can cause MDD and suicide victims have exhibited abnormal zinc protein deficiencies in postmortem examinations.

“Given New Zealand’s appalling teen suicide rates and our increasing rates of child obesity, it is timely now for our Prime Minister and Minister of Child Poverty Reduction Jacinda Ardern to commission a new national child nutrition survey to determine the status  of our children’s health and wellbeing.

“While there maybe a number of critical issues which are precursors to New Zealand’s world leading teen suicide rates there is overwhelming evidence that zinc malnutrition is a major contributing factor. 

“Some 40,000 children a year are admitted to hospital in New Zealand suffering from poverty related micronutrient malnutrition and we are long overdue for a national child nutrition review.”

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