Background: Intervention trials have shown that zinc may be efficacious in treating acute diarrhea in children of developing countries. A double-blind placebo-controlled study was designed to evaluate the effects of zinc supplementation on the clinical course and duration of diarrhea in malnourished Turkish children.
Methods: The study group comprised 40 subjects with low zinc levels (Group 1a) and 52 subjects with normal zinc levels (Group 1b). The control group was also comprised of two subgroups: 36 subjects with low zinc levels (Group 2a) and 54 subject with normal zinc levels (Group 2b). Forty-three percent of children in the study group and 40% of controls had low serum zinc levels (<14 µmol/L), and 43% of subjects in both groups had very low serum zinc concentrations (<10 µmol/L). The study group were given 20 mg zinc per day for 10 days and the control group were given 750 mg glucose per day as a placebo for 10 days.
Results: The mean duration of diarrhea was shorter and the percentage of children with consistent diarrhea for more than 3−7 days was lower in the study subgroups than in the control subgroups. Prolonged diarrhea was present in 12% of children in the study group, and in 44% and 37% of children in the hypozincemic and normozincemic control subgroups, respectively. The was no significant difference among the four subgroups of children in the number of cases with post-enrollment diarrhea of a duration of>14 days. Stool frequency over the first 4 days after enrollment was lower in children in the study group.
Conclusion: It was concluded that zinc supplementation in malnourished children with acute diarrhea may reduce the severity and duration of diarrhea, especially in children with low zinc levels.