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Zinc supplementation found to reduce mortality in older children

A clinical trial conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public concluded that daily zinc supplements reduced the risk of death among children aged 12 to 48 months by 18 percent. However, the researchers did not find any significant reduction in mortality among children 1 to11 months of age. The study is published in the March 17, 2007, edition of The Lancet.

Zinc is one of the most plentiful trace elements in the body, second only to iron. It mediates many physiological functions and is believed to be essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. The trial examined whether zinc supplementation would benefit children living in areas where malaria is prevalent. Pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria account for 45 percent of the 10 million child deaths worldwide each year.

This large trial demonstrates that the benefits of zinc supplementation include mortality reduction in addition to the reduction in cases of pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria that we found in previous trials, said Robert Black, MD, the studys senior author and professor and chair of the Bloomberg Schools Department of International Health.

The double-blind trial involved 42,546 children living in Pemba, Zanzibar. Half of the children were randomly selected by household to receive daily zinc supplements, while the other half were given a placebo. Overall, the study found a 7 percent reduction in the risk of mortality with zinc supplementation, which was statistically insignificant, and a statistically significant 18 percent reduction in mortality in children aged 12 to 48 months. According to the Hopkins researchers, the interaction between zinc effects and age is consistent with the results of other studies.

They said it is possible that infants acquire sufficient amounts of zinc in utero and through breast feeding to sustain them during the first year of life. The failure to find an effect in infants could also be a result of the lo
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Contact: Tim Parsons
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
15-Mar-2007


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