Dietary supplements of the mineral zinc may help prevent two major causes of death -- pneumonia and diarrhea -- among children in underdeveloped countries. After reviewing a total of 10 studies, investigators at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and the World Health Organization report that zinc supplementation reduces the risk of pneumonia by 41% and the risk of diarrhea by as much 25%. Zinc deficiency is common among children in developing countries. The substantial benefits of zinc supplementation for prevention of diarrhea and pneumonia, the two leading causes of death in children in developing countries, suggest that this could be an important means to improve child survival. Exactly how zinc staves off these conditions is unclear, but the study authors speculate that zinc may boost immune system function, resulting in a stronger immune system that is better able to fend off infections. It is clear, however, that measures such as zinc fortification of bread, more diversified diets and genetic engineering to increase the amount of zinc in foods may be needed to help children in developing countries get the zinc they need. The studies included in the new data analysis involved children receiving oral zinc supplements with at least half of US Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc, which is currently 10 milligrams per day for children aged 1 to 4 years, and 5 milligrams from birth to 1 year of age.
Journal of Pediatrics December 1999;135.
This is a great reminder of the therapeutic value of zinc. The lozenges are excellent for colds and upper respiratory infections, but for more severe problems like diarrhea or pneumonia one should consider these nutrients. It is important to know that if you are already taking zinc it is very easy to become zinc overloaded. If one becomes nauseous shortly after taking the zinc, it is highly likely that you already have enough zinc and should hold off on taking it.