Zinc deficiency in children with environmental enteropathy: development of new strategies. Report from an expert workshop.

Graeme Young, Elissa Mortimer, Geetha Gopalsamy, David Alpers, Henry Binder, Mark Manary, Balakrishnan Ramakrishna, Ian Brown, Thomas Brewer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    19 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Zinc deficiency is a major cause of childhood morbidity and mortality. The WHO/UNICEF strategy for zinc supplementation as adjunctive therapy for diarrhea is poorly implemented. A conference of experts in zinc nutrition and gastrointestinal disorders was convened to consider approaches that might complement the current recommendation and what research was needed to develop these approaches. Several key points were identified. The design of novel zinc interventions would be facilitated by a better understanding of how disturbed gut function, such as environmental (or tropical) enteropathy, affects zinc absorption, losses, and homeostasis. Because only 10% of zinc stores are able to be rapidly turned over, and appear to be rapidly depleted by acute intestinal illness, they are probably best maintained by complementary regular supplementation in a primary prevention strategy rather than secondary prevention triggered by acute diarrhea. The assessment of zinc status is challenging and complex without simple, validated measures to facilitate field testing of novel interventions. Zinc bioavailability may be a crucial factor in the success of primary prevention strategies, and a range of options, all still inadequately explored, might be valuable in improving zinc nutrition. Some therapeutic actions of zinc on diarrhea seem attributable to pharmacologic effects, whereas others are related to the reversal of deficiency (ie, nutritional). The distinction between these 2 mechanisms cannot be clarified given the insensitivity of serum zinc to identify subclinical deficiency states. Why zinc seems to be less effective than expected at all ages, and ineffective for secondary prevention of diarrhea in children ,12 mo of age, remains unclear. It was concluded that a reframing of the current recommendation is warranted with consideration of how to better optimize and deliver zinc and whether to provide a complementary public health primary prevention zinc strategy. This requires careful consideration of the zinc product to be used as well as strategies for its delivery.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1198-1207
    Number of pages10
    JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition
    Volume100
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014

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