Diarrhea in children and the effects of zinc.





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Zinc is necessary for the functioning of over 300 different enzymes and, as such, it plays a vital role in an enormous number of biological processes. Much attention has been placed on this mineral for its role in the immune system. In humans, the highest concentrations of zinc are found in the liver, pancreas, kidneys, bone, and muscles. The best dietary sources of zinc are lean meats, liver, eggs, and seafood (especially oysters). Whole grain breads and cereals are also good sources of zinc.

Zinc supplementation has previously demonstrated significant effectiveness in treating acute diarrhea in children. Acute diarrhea in children can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, or by parasites. However, food allergies, antibiotics, and changes in dietary habits can also cause diarrhea.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, examined the value and effectiveness of treating children with 3 Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) of zinc. This randomized, placebo-controlled study involved 792 Nepalese children who were divided into 4 groups. The ages of these children ranged from 6 to 35 months and all were diagnosed with acute diarrhea. Once a day, three blinded groups received placebo syrup, zinc syrup, or zinc syrup supplemented with vitamin A. The fourth group openly received the zinc syrup daily given by a caretaker. Regurgitation was seen in 5% of the zinc syrup group, 5.1% in the zinc-vitamin A group, and 1.3% in the placebo group. The authors concluded that 3 doses of the RDA of zinc significantly reduced the time-period of diarrhea. Vitamin A supplementation did not show any improvement on the outcome of diarrhea.1


1. Strand TA, et al. Effectiveness and Efficacy of Zinc for the Treatment of Acute Diarrhea in Young Children. PEDIATRICS. May 2002;109 (5):898-903.