“Our most important finding is that there is strong evidence that zinc supplementation benefits children suffering from diarrhoea in developing countries, but only in infants over six months old,” said lead investigator Marzia Lazzerini, M.D. “Zinc reduces acute diarrhoea duration in terms of mean duration and risk of diarrhoea at given days. Zinc also reduces the duration of persistent diarrhoea.” Zinc deficiency is due primarily to inadequate dietary intake.
The reviewers identified 18 randomized controlled trials enrolling 6,165 children and comparing zinc treatment with placebo. Thirteen trials focused on treatment of acute diarrhoea and the other five on treatment of persistent diarrhoea. The reviewers found zinc was effective for diarrhoea in children over six months old. By the third day of zinc treatment, children were 31 percent less likely to suffer from acute diarrhoea (in two studies) and were 45 percent less likely to do so after five days of treatment (also in two studies), Lazzerini said.
“This benefit withstood extensive subgroup analysis for nutritional status, geographic region, background zinc deficiency, zinc type and study setting,” the authors say. Zinc also reduced diarrhoea at by 29 percent after a week of treatment. Diarrhoea at day seven can be a signal of persistent diarrhoea, which can lead to severe dehydration and death. Two of the studies included children younger than six months. The results showed no evidence of a therapeutic effect of zinc treatment in these children.
The authors said there were insufficient data to gauge the influence of zinc treatment on death, since the studies under review did not measure mortality. “The trials were not designed to look at hospitalization and mortality, but given these results, it’s expected that a policy of zinc supplementation to all children over six months with diarrhoea in developing countries could also reduce hospitalization rate and mortality,” they concluded.
MEDICA.de; Source: Health Behavior News Service