Role of zinc in child health and survival

Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2012:70:37-42. doi: 10.1159/000337393. Epub 2012 Aug 31.


Zinc deficiency has been estimated to result in more than 450,000 child deaths annually by increasing the risk of diarrhea and pneumonia mortality. Trials of daily supplemental zinc have shown preventive benefits in childhood diarrhea with a 20% reduction in incidence. Use of zinc in treatment of diarrhea has also been successful in shortening the duration of the episode by 10% and reducing the number of prolonged episodes. The World Health Organization recommends that zinc supplements be used for 10-14 days for every episode of childhood diarrhea along with oral hydration and feeding. Large-scale effectiveness trials of these recommendations in Bangladesh and India have found a reduction in hospitalizations due to diarrhea and pneumonia and in child mortality. Trials have also demonstrated a reduction in the incidence childhood pneumonia with zinc supplements and some, but not all, studies have found a therapeutic benefit of zinc as adjunctive treatment along with antibiotics as well. Preventive zinc also improves the growth of children in developing countries and reduces total deaths in 1-to 4-year-old children by 18%. Zinc supplementation is an intervention with proven effectiveness and broad application to address pneumonia and diarrhea, the two most important childhood infectious diseases globally.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Bangladesh / epidemiology
  • Child Mortality
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Developing Countries
  • Diarrhea / mortality*
  • Diarrhea / prevention & control
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Infant
  • Malaria / mortality*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia / mortality*
  • Pneumonia / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Zinc / administration & dosage*
  • Zinc / deficiency*


  • Zinc