Zinc Reduces Child Mortality By More Than 34%

Dietary zinc supplementation may reduce infant mortality by at least one-third, according to a study presented at the Federation of American Scientists Experimental Biology (FASEB) Meeting on April 18, 1999. In order to evaluate impact of zinc and other micronutrient supplementation on child growth, morbidity and mortality in low birth weight infants, scientists from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in collaboration with their colleagues from Annamalai University, India conducted a four group, randomized, controlled trial in which 1250 low-birth weight Indian children were allocated to receive a daily supplement from 1 to 9 months of age. The four supplemented groups were zinc alone; zinc with other vitamins and minerals; vitamins and minerals; vitamins alone, and placebo. Zinc supplementation resulted in a significant reduction in mortality. There was no effect with the other groups of vitamins and minerals. The researchers hypothesize that the mortality reduction resulted from zinc's ability to bolster the immune system.

In a pooled analysis of 17 international zinc studies presented at FASEB on April 20, 1999, researchers found that zinc supplementation reduced diarrheal prevalence by up to 25% and pneumonia incidence by 41% in randomized, controlled trials. They also found that zinc supplementation given along with appropriate fluids and foods during acute and persistent diar-rhea reduces the duration of the illness by up to 29%, as well as the severity of the episode and risk of treatment failure or death.

Zinc experts from Johns Hopkins include:

  • Robert E. Black, M.D., M.P.H.,
  • Sunil Sazawal, M.B., B.S., Ph.D., M.P.H.


Contact: Laura M. Kelley
Child Health Research Project

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