Deficiency of Zinc, an essential mineral leads children to an increased risk of developing pneumonia, the major killer of children under five, a recent research investigates.
Zinc is an important micro-mineral (trace mineral) essential for growth and development. Apart from growth, it is equally important for children to boost their body’s defense or immune system. Zinc deficiency weakens immune system and therefore children are susceptible to various infectious diseases, predominantly pneumonia that kills more than 50,000 children under the age of five in Bangladesh.
A recently published study in “The Indian Journal of Paediatrics” revealed that Bangladeshi children suffering from pneumonia have significantly low body zinc as compared to the children who did not develop pneumonia.
A total 152 children between 6 months to 5 years were enrolled in the study. Among them 35 children had pneumonia, 32 children were severely undernourished, 38 children were severely undernourished associated with pneumonia and 47 children were healthy well-nourished children.
The study result showed that children suffering from pneumonia have statistically four folds less zinc in their body than healthy well-nourished children. The magnitudes of zinc deficiency were more profound in malnourished children who developed pneumonia as compared to well-nourished children healthy without pneumonia.
The published study also showed little children are more vulnerable to suffer from pneumonia than bigger one. The study showed children who are short-statured due to under-nutrition have significantly low zinc level. There is preliminary evidence from an ongoing study showing children who received zinc supplement for two months developed significantly fewer episodes of pneumonia during the follow up period of next six months as compared to the children who did not receive zinc supplement. Remarkable success was observed with about 67 percent reduction of pneumonia in the study population. The study results will raise the important issue whether public health measures should be taken involving zinc supplement or food fortification with zinc to improve zinc status of our children particularly to vulnerable (undernourished) in order to improve their immunity.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of zinc is 2-3 mg from birth to 3 years, 5 mg from 4-8 years and 8 mg/day for children aged 9 to 11 years; the RDA for adolescent and adult males is 11 mg/day. Primary dietary sources of zinc include animal products such as meat, seafood and milk. Ready-to-eat cereal contains the greatest amount of zinc consumed from plant products. Lack of zinc may help kill your baby. Make sure that your children are getting recommended amount of zinc and shield them against deadly germs that cause pneumonia.
Prof Md Salim Shakur
Consultant and Head, Department of Paediatrics at United Hospital Ltd, Dhaka.
Source: The Daily Star, February 13, 2010