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Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2016 Dec;19(4):259-268. doi: 10.5223/pghn.2016.19.4.259. Epub 2016 Dec 28.

Hair Zinc Level Analysis and Correlative Micronutrients in Children Presenting with Malnutrition and Poor Growth.

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Department of Pediatrics, Hanyang University College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.



Zinc deficiency can induce serious clinical problems in the gastrointestinal (GI) system and immune system and can affect growth and development. It is more severe in younger patients. Chronic zinc deficiency is reflected more precisely in hair than in serum. We studied hair zinc levels and other hair and serum micronutrients in chronic malnourished children to identify which micronutrients are affected or correlated with the other ones.


Hair mineral analyses were performed in 56 children (age, 1-15 years) presenting with malnutrition, poor growth, poor appetite, anorexia, with/without other GI symptoms (diarrhea, abdominal pain, constipation) from August 2012 to March 2015. Biochemical studies for macronutrients and major micronutrients were also conducted.


Hair zinc deficiency was diagnosed in 88%, and serum zinc deficiency was diagnosed in 55% of the children. There was no statistical correlation between serum and tissue zinc level. Hair zinc levels were highly correlated with serum vitamin D (r=-0.479, p=0.001), which also showed correlation with hair levels of magnesium and calcium. (r=0.564, 0.339, p=0.001, 0.011). Hair calcium level was correlated with serum pre-albumin (r=0.423, p=0.001). These correlations may explain the phenomenon that the major clinical manifestation of zinc deficiency is poor body growth. Clinical symptoms were resolved in most children after zinc supplementation.


Hair zinc and mineral analyses are useful as a therapeutic guide in the clinical investigation of children with malnutrition and poor growth.


Growth & development; Hair; Malnutrition; Micronutrients; Zinc

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