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Thursday 24th May 2018

Zinc and child mortality

21st March 2007

A review of available studies of zinc supplementation on morbidity, growth, and mortality suggests that zinc deficiency has important health consequences, especially in the area of child mortality, writes Shinjini Bhatnagar in The Lancet.

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Zinc, says Bhatnagar, is a crucial micronutrient because it affects various immune mechanisms and modulates host resistance to several pathogens, and reduces morbidity from diarrhoea and pneumonia in high-risk populations.

"Increased emphasis," she writes, "should be given to studying specific mechanisms by which zinc acts, and whether the benefits are related to correction of zinc deficiency or to favourable effects of zinc at increasing concentrations."

This might lead to a definition of an optimum daily dose for zinc. More studies need to be done also on the link between zinc deficiency and low birth weights, she adds, saying that the present WHO strategy to introduce zinc into diarrhoea treatments is "an important step forward".

More than 10 million children younger than 5 years die every year in the developing world, mostly from preventable infections, says Bhatnagar. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly recognised as the main risk factor for childhood mortality in these countries. Micronutrients are important determinants of infection and their outcomes.

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