Zinc supplementation boosts immune system in children, Cochrane Review finds

May 14, 2014

Zinc supplements reduce diarrhoea and other infections in malnourished children, and may prevent death, according to a new study published in The Cochrane Library. The study is the first Cochrane Systematic Review to focus on zinc as a means to prevent childhood death, including deaths caused by diarrhoea, one of the biggest killers of under-fives.

Zinc is a micronutrient with important roles in growth and in the immune, nervous and reproductive systems. The human body cannot make it, so it has to come from our diet. It is estimated that more than 1 in 6 people globally are deficient in and that around 1 in every 58 deaths in children under five is related to zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency is common in Southeast Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Latin America.

The authors were interested in whether could reduce and disease, and help support growth. They reviewed data from 80 trials involving 205,401 children aged six months to twelve years, mostly in low and . Overall, they concluded that could benefit children as part of wider programmes to address public health and nutrition challenges in these countries.

"We should remember that supplements are not a substitute for a well-balanced diet," said senior researcher Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta from the Center of Excellence in Women and Child Health, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan, and Sick Kids Center for Global Child Health, Toronto, Canada. "However, in countries where is common, supplements may help to reduce child deaths and related diseases in the short-term."

Those children who took zinc were less likely to suffer a bout of diarrhoea, and when the researchers looked at growth differences, they saw that children who were given zinc were slightly taller by the end of the trials compared to those who did not. However, healthy eating is more important for growth. "Eating foods with balanced energy and protein and multiple micronutrients would probably have a larger effect for many ," said Evan Mayo-Wilson, the lead author based at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland.

Although zinc supplements were associated with an increase in vomiting, the researchers think that overall the benefits of giving zinc outweigh the harms.

Dr David Tovey, Editor-in-Chief, Cochrane, said, "Policymakers in low and middle income countries need evidence that directly addresses the needs of their own health services. This comprehensive review makes a very valuable contribution to the evidence base around interventions may make an important contribution to improving Global Health."

Explore further: Zinc supplementation does not protect young African children against malaria

More information: Mayo-Wilson E, Junior JA, Imdad A, Dean S, Chan XHS, Chan ES, Jaswal A, Bhutta ZA. Zinc supplementation for preventing mortality, morbidity, and growth failure in children aged 6 months to 12 years of age. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD009384. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009384.pub2

Related Stories

Zinc supplementation does not protect young African children against malaria

November 22, 2011
A study led by Hans Verhoef, a researcher at Wageningen University, the Netherlands, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and published in this week's PLoS Medicine shows that supplementing young Tanzanian ...

Pneumonia wonder drug: Zinc saves lives

February 8, 2012
Respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia, are the most common cause of death in children under the age of five. In a study looking at children given standard antibiotic therapy, new research published in BioMed Central's ...

Potential diagnostic marker for zinc status offers insights into the effects of zinc deficiency

August 29, 2013
According to new research published in The FASEB Journal, a drop in blood zinc levels does not directly harm the blood vessel cells. Rather, zinc regulates the production of a small molecular compound, which then circulates ...

Dose of zinc boosts recovery chances for sick babies

May 31, 2012
A simple, cheap dose of zinc helps the recovery of newborns suffering from bacterial infections such as pneumonia and meningitis, according to an Indian study reported on Thursday in The Lancet.

Recommended for you

Co-infection with two common gut pathogens worsens malnutrition in mice

July 27, 2017
Two gut pathogens commonly found in malnourished children combine to worsen malnutrition and impair growth in laboratory mice, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Accounting for human immune diversity increases clinical relevance of fundamental immunological research

July 26, 2017
Mouse models have advanced our understanding of immune function and disease in many ways but they have failed to account for the natural diversity in human immune responses. As a result, insights gained in the lab may be ...

Study sheds light on how body may detect early signs of cancer

July 26, 2017
Fresh insights into how cells detect damage to their DNA - a hallmark of cancer - could help explain how the body keeps disease in check.

How genetically engineered viruses develop into effective vaccines

July 26, 2017
Lentiviral vectors are virus particles that can be used as a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to fight against specific pathogens. The vectors are derived from HIV, rendered non-pathogenic, and then engineered to carry ...

Does your child really have a food allergy?

July 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many people misunderstand what food allergies are, and even doctors can be confused about how to best diagnose them, suggests a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.