According to a new study, zinc supplements could play a role in reducing the number of childhood deaths from diarrhea around the world. Researchers who tested three different methods of zinc administration in nearly 1,650 Nepalese youngsters found zinc reduced the risk of prolonged diarrhea defined as lasting more than seven days by 35 percent to 45 percent. The treatment was effective regardless of whether the zinc was given by a clinic worker or the child's caregiver.
More than 3 million children die of diarrhea every year, all over the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries. Studies have shown zinc given during acute episodes of diarrhea is effective in reducing the duration and severity of the illness. These investigators, from Texas and India, compared the effectiveness of three different methods of zinc administration to see which method worked best.
Around half of the children in this study received either zinc syrup or zinc syrup and vitamin A by workers at a field clinic. Another quarter received zinc syrup from their caregivers, and a fourth group received a sham syrup from the field workers. All of the children were between 5 and 30 months of age.
Finally the outcome showed equally positive results for all of the zinc administrations, leading researchers to write, this trial demonstrates that zinc is as effective in treating diarrhea when given daily by the caretaker as when given by trained field workers. No other treatment has been proven as effective as zinc in reducing the duration of acute diarrhea in children of developing countries.