Oral zinc provision in acute diarrhea

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2016 May;19(3):239-43. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000276.


Purpose of review: The clinical management of acute diarrhea is based on the use of oral rehydration salts and appropriate nutrition. In addition, the WHO and The United Nations Children's Fund recommend zinc supplementation for diarrhea in children below 5 years. This article aims at reviewing recent literature on the effects of oral zinc for treating acute diarrhea in children.

Recent findings: Recent studies confirm that zinc supplementation has a benefit in children below 5 years with acute diarrhea in countries at medium or high risk of zinc deficiency. A few small trials have reported a benefit of zinc in children at low risk of zinc deficiency, with heterogeneity in results. No recent study has explored the effects of zinc in children younger than 6 months, and in this age group previous research refuted any benefit from zinc.

Summary: Current literature supports the use of oral zinc in treating diarrhea in children older than 6 months, especially if at risk of zinc deficiency, such as children with poor diets exposed to recurrent gastrointestinal infections. More research is needed to confirm findings in children at low risk of zinc deficiency. Currently there is no evidence that zinc benefits children younger than 6 months.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Combined Modality Therapy / adverse effects
  • Deficiency Diseases / epidemiology
  • Deficiency Diseases / etiology
  • Deficiency Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Developing Countries
  • Diarrhea / diet therapy*
  • Diarrhea / physiopathology
  • Diarrhea / therapy
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / diet therapy
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / physiopathology
  • Diarrhea, Infantile / therapy
  • Dietary Supplements* / adverse effects
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Fluid Therapy
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk
  • United Nations
  • Zinc / adverse effects
  • Zinc / deficiency
  • Zinc / therapeutic use*


  • Zinc