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Zinc Supplements Could Lower Rate of Child Death from Diarrhea

According to the CDC, diarrhea is the cause of death in 1 in 9 children worldwide. A recent study suggests that zinc supplements may lower incidences of diarrhea and other infections in malnourished children.

The data for this study included 80 trials involving a total of 205,401 children between the ages of six months and 12 years. They found that the children who took zinc supplements were less likely to suffer a bout of diarrhea. They were also less likely to die from lower respiratory tract infection and malaria. Additionally, there was a slightly lower risk of all-cause mortality and a slight increase in height by the end of the supplementation period.

This is an issue for malnourished children in particular, as 1 in 58 deaths in children under five worldwide is zinc deficiency related. According to data from the WHO and UNICEF, up to 88% of those deaths could be prevented by administering oral rehydration salt in combination with zinc supplements to malnourished children.

Researchers from the Center of Excellence in Women and Child Health in Pakistan and Sick Kids Center of Global Child Health in Canada conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on May 15, 2014, in The Cochrane Library.

The human body cannot make zinc, so it’s important to get it from food and supplement sources. An essential mineral, zinc has been linked to maintaining a healthy immune system, healing wounds, helping with growth, supporting the reproductive system, and better eye health.

Zinc can be found in many foods, including oysters, beef, crab, fortified cereals, lobster, beans, yogurt, nuts, milk, chicken, cheese, and oatmeal. You can also consume zinc in a supplement form, but be careful not to take too much. Intakes of greater than 150 mg per day have been associated with negative side effects, such as a weakened immune system.

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