A new review of available research suggests that giving children zinc supplements might reduce their risk of illness and death.
Zinc is a trace mineral that is needed for many important functions in the body. Deficiency may cause problems with growth, diarrhea, hair loss, and immune function. Although it is rare in developed countries, some cases may be found in elderly and pregnant people. Mild zinc deficiency may be overlooked, since symptoms are not always obvious and may include loss of hair, appetite, weight, and the senses of taste and smell. Studies in developing countries found that zinc may reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea in poorly nourished children, especially those with low zinc levels.
In a newly published Cochrane Review, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search for data on the effects of zinc in children 6 months to 12 years-old. Eighty well-designed clinical trials including 205,401 participants were ultimately identified for inclusion.
The researchers found that zinc supplementation might reduce the risk of death overall, and particularly the risk of death associated with diarrhea, lower respiratory tract infection or malaria. Furthermore, children who are given zinc supplements have less incidents of diarrhea than those who are not. The authors noted that supplementation might be associated with an increased risk of vomiting.
The authors concluded that overall, the benefits of giving children zinc supplements appear to outweigh the potential risks in areas where zinc deficiency might occur. Further research is warranted in this area.
For more information about zinc, please visit Natural Standard’s Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.