HealthDay News — For patients aged 6 months to 12 years, zinc supplementation has no clear effect on mortality but may reduce diarrhea morbidity, according to researchers.

“Zinc is an essential micronutrient and zinc deficiency is an important public health problem in low- and middle-income countries,” Evan Mayo-Wilson, DPhil, of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues wrote in a review published in The Cochrane Library. “Zinc deficiency impairs growth and contributes to numerous child deaths per year due to diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria.”

The effects of zinc supplementation on preventing mortality and morbidity and promoting growth in children were examined in 80 controlled trials and involved 205,401 patients aged 6 months to 12 years.

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Inspectors found that zinc supplementation correlated with risk ratios of 0.95 for all-cause mortality (95% CI: 0.86-1.05); 0.95 for cause-specific mortality due to diarrhea (95% CI: 0.69-1.31); 0.86 for lower respiratory tract infection (95% CI: 0.64-1.15); and 0.90 for malaria (95% CI: 0.77-1.06).

Diarrhea morbidity was reduced with supplementation, including incidence of all-cause diarrhea (RR, 0.87; 95% CI: 0.85-0.89). The results for lower respiratory tract infection and malaria were inconclusive.

“The effect of preventive zinc supplementation on all-cause mortality was not statistically significant, but these results are consistent with a small reduction in mortality,” wrote the researchers. “In our opinion, the benefits of preventive zinc supplementation outweigh the harms in areas where the risk of zinc deficiency is relatively high. Further research should determine optimal intervention characteristics such as supplement dose.”


  1. Mayo-Wilson E et al.The Cochrane Library. 2014; doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD009384.pub2