Randomized, community-based trial of the effect of zinc supplementation, with and without other micronutrients, on the duration of persistent childhood diarrhea in Lima, Peru

J Pediatr. 1999 Aug;135(2 Pt 1):208-17. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(99)70024-7.


Objective: To determine whether supplemental zinc, with or without additional micronutrients, affects the severity and duration of persistent childhood diarrhea and the rate of nutritional recovery.

Design: The study was a community-based, double-blind, randomized trial implemented in a shanty town in Lima, Peru. Children aged 6 to 36 months with persistent (>/=14 days) diarrhea received daily, for 2 weeks, a placebo (group P, n = 136) or a supplement of 20 mg of zinc, either with (group Z+VM, n = 137) or without (group Z, n = 139) additional vitamins and minerals. Symptoms of illness were recorded daily, and biochemical and anthropometric assessments were completed at baseline and on day 15.

Results: The treatment groups were similar at baseline with regard to the characteristics of the presenting episode, anthropometric data, and plasma zinc concentration. The children consumed, on average, 95% (group P), 94% (group Z), or 88% (group Z+VM) of the supplement (P <.001). The plasma zinc concentration did not change significantly from baseline to day 15 in group P (4 microg/dL) but increased by 38 microg/dL in group Z and 14 microg/dL in group Z+VM. The median duration of diarrhea after starting treatment was 1 day; among children who continued to have diarrhea, there was a significant effect of treatment on diarrheal duration (P =.04, analysis of covariance). Specifically, the duration of illness was significantly reduced by 28% in children in group Z (P =.01) and by 33% in girls in group Z+VM (P =.04). There were no differences in the severity of the episode by treatment group.

Conclusion: There was a significant reduction in the duration of persistent diarrhea in selected subgroups of zinc-supplemented ambulatory patients in this population.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anthropometry
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diarrhea / drug therapy*
  • Diarrhea / epidemiology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Micronutrients*
  • Peru / epidemiology
  • Zinc / blood
  • Zinc / therapeutic use*


  • Micronutrients
  • Zinc