Share The Wealth by Chris Gupta
November 02, 2003

Zinc & childhood infections

Further to my earlier post: Do Your Own Zinc Level Test, here is another relevant post.

Chris Gupta

Zinc supplementation decreases childhood infections

Zinc supplementation in children in developing countries is associated with a substantial reduction in the rates of diarrhoea and pneumonia, according to a pooled analysis by the Zinc Investigators' Collaborative Group. However, "mass national supplementation programmes are premature" at this time, says one of the authors Robert Black (Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA).

The group analysed ten randomised controlled trials from nine developing countries. The studies assessed the effects of oral zinc in apparently healthy children younger than 5 years. There were seven continuous trials (in which 1-2 times the US recommended daily allowance [RDA] of zinc was given 5-7 times per week), and three short-course trials (2-4 times the RDA daily for 2 weeks).

In the continuous trials, pooled odds ratios for diarrhoeal incidence and prevalence were 0·82 (95% CI 0·72-0·93) and 0·75 (0·63-0·88), respectively, in the zinc-supplemented group compared with controls. Children who took zinc supplements also had an odds ratio of 0·59 (0·41-0·83) for pneumonia. In the short-course trials, the odds ratios for diarrhoeal incidence and prevalence were 0·89 (0·62-1·28) and 0·66 (0·52-0·83), respectively; the odds ratio for pneumonia incidence was 0·74 (0·40-1·37). No significant differences were seen between short and continuous courses (J Pediatr 1999; 135: 689-97).

HPS Sachdev (Maulana Azad Medical College, Delhi, India), says that although the findings highlight the role of zinc supplementation in the management of common infectious diseases in developing countries, it is too early to embark on a mass public-health intervention. Copper depletion and interactions of zinc with other micronutrients have not been adequately studied, says Sachdev. "My fear is that on the basis of this study, zinc may be seen as another magic bullet like vitamin A, leading to commercial exploitation, which south Asian economies cannot afford and must vigilantly guard against."

Khabir Ahmad


posted by Chris Gupta on Sunday November 2 2003
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

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