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N Engl J Med. 1995 Sep 28;333(13):839-44.

Zinc supplementation in young children with acute diarrhea in India.

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Department of International Health, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.



In developing countries the duration and severity of diarrheal illnesses are greatest among infants and young children with malnutrition and impaired immune status, both factors that may be associated with zinc deficiency. In children with severe zinc deficiency, diarrhea is common and responds quickly to zinc supplementation.


To evaluate the effects of daily supplementation with 20 mg of elemental zinc on the duration and severity of acute diarrhea, we conducted a double-blind, randomized, controlled trial involving 937 children, 6 to 35 months of age, in New Delhi, India. All the children also received oral rehydration therapy and vitamin supplements.


Among the children who received zinc supplementation, there was a 23 percent reduction (95 percent confidence interval, 12 percent to 32 percent) in the risk of continued diarrhea. Estimates of the likelihood of recovery according to the day of zinc supplementation revealed a reduction of 7 percent (95 percent confidence interval, -9 percent to +22 percent) in the risk of continued diarrhea during days 1 through 3 and a reduction of 38 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 27 percent to 48 percent) after day 3. When zinc supplementation was initiated within three days of the onset of diarrhea, there was a 39 percent reduction (95 percent confidence interval, 7 percent to 61 percent) in the proportion of episodes lasting more than seven days. In the zinc-supplementation group there was a decrease of 39 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 6 percent to 70 percent) in the mean number of watery stools per day (P = 0.02) and a decrease of 21 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 10 percent to 31 percent) in the number of days with watery diarrhea. The reductions in the duration and severity of diarrhea were greater in children with stunted growth than in those with normal growth.


For infants and young children with acute diarrhea, zinc supplementation results in clinically important reductions in the duration and severity of diarrhea.

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