Zinc is an essential trace element for children’s development because it takes a great part in many biological functions, especially in cell growth, differentiation, and metabolism.
Zinc deficiency can cause mental and physical development retardation in children. Besides, a lack of zinc can affect immune health, and cause poor appetite and skin disorders.
Zinc supplementation is effective in helping reducing childhood diarrhea. The World Health Organization recommends 20 mg of zinc daily for 10-14 days for children with acute diarrhea.
Although zinc enhancement can improve the prognosis of diarrhea, scientists also found that it increases the risk of vomiting.
The standard zinc dose of 20 mg for acute diarrhea may be too much, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The research team of the study investigated whether lower zinc doses could reduce vomiting without affecting the efficiency in the treatment of acute diarrhea among children.
They conducted a trial involving about 4,500 children in India and Tanzania who were 6 to 59 months of age. The participants were assigned to receive 5 mg, 10 mg, or 20 mg of zinc sulfate for 14 days, respectively, to check the outcomes.
The results showed that the percentage of children with diarrhea for more than 5 days had no statistically significant differences between the standard 20 mg dose group and the low-dose groups. Pleasingly, participants in low-dose groups showed a significantly lower risk of vomiting, compared to the standard dose group.
This study indicates that it may be possible to reduce the recommended zinc dose for acute diarrhea in order to reduce vomiting.
Currently, mild to moderate deficiency is common in children, and it is difficult to detect because the incurring symptoms may be caused by other deficiencies.
Preventing zinc deficiency shall begin with daily diets, and children can supplement zinc from foods. Zinc-rich foods include beef, pork, chicken, oysters, seeds, nuts, yogurt, mushrooms, etc. Generally, zinc found in animal sources is more absorbable than that in plant-based foods, and therefore foods like beef and pork are the best choices.
If children have been detected with zinc deficiency, zinc medication from doctors shall be given.