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Am J Clin Nutr. 1987 Mar;45(3):602-8.

Controlled trial of zinc supplementation during recovery from malnutrition: effects on growth and immune function.


To evaluate the effect of zinc on growth and immune function, 32 marasmic infants were selected on admission to the nutrition recovery center; 16 received 2 mg/kg daily of elemental zinc supplement as acetate and the remaining received a placebo. Immunity was assessed by skin-test response, T-cell blastic proliferation immunoglobulins, and infectious morbidity. Weight-for-length gain for initial 60 days in Zn-supplemented group was 9% of standard vs 3% for placebo (p less than 0.05). Energy intake was similar in both groups. Incidence of infections, especially pyoderma, was significantly higher in placebo group: 10 of 16 vs 3 of 16 in the supplemented group (p less than 0.025). Plasma Zn was correlated with number of febrile days in the prospective month (r = -0.66, p less than 0.05). The percent anergic infants decreased and serum IgA increased significantly only in Zn-supplemented group. Zinc supplementation has significant effects on weight gain and host defense mechanisms despite normal plasma levels. Zinc supplementation is recommended for optimal recovery from marasmus.

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