Zinc supplementation reduces infectious disease morbidity

Highlights of studies published in the August supplement of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

provided by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

ietary zinc supplementation may reduce morbidity due to infectious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria, according to studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN 1998; 68:2-S).

Several studies of acute diarrhea treatment found illness duration reduced up to 23 percent in zinc-supplemented children when compared to control children, with zinc-supplemented children having less severe symptoms. Zinc also had a preventive effect on diarrhea, with several studies documenting an up to 38 percent decrease in incidence in supplemented children.

Studies examining zinc's role in preventing respiratory illness also showed positive effects. One study in India demonstrated a reduction of 45 percent in the incidence of acute lower respiratory infections in zinc-supplemented children when compared with the control children, while a study from Vietnam reported a 2.5-fold decrease in all respiratory infections.

Zinc supplementation also reduced malarial morbidity. A trial in Papua New Guinea found a decrease of malaria-attributed health center attendance of 35 percent in zinc-supplemented children. These findings indicate that zinc supplementation reduces the incidence and severity of serious childhood infectious diseases, and could possibly reduce child mortality.

Other studies included in the issue suggest that zinc supplementation may aid child development, with some trials finding neuropsychologic performance and growth to be improved after treatment with zinc and micronutrients.

The journal includes research by leading scientists and is based on meetings held at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore.

  For further information about zinc research, please contact Laura M. Kelley at: (410) 614-5439, fax (410) 955-7159; lkelleyjhsph.edu. Abstracts of the studies are available on the web at http://ih1.sph.jhu.edu/chr/chr.htm.