Research found preventive zinc supplementation helps reduce diarrhea and respiratory tract infections in children
Recommended dietary strategies to enhance zinc status include breast feeding, consumption of zinc rich foods, and promoting appropriate processed complementary foods
Bangkok (6 October 2009) ? Leading Thai and international nutritionists agree that adequate zinc nutrition can help prevent serious and fatal diseases such as diarrhea and acute respiratory infections among young children.
The findings were shared by leading nutritionists and paediatricians including Prof. Dr. Kenneth Brown from the University of California, USA; Prof. Rosalind Gibson from the University of Otago, New Zealand, and Assoc. Prof Pattanee Winichagoon from the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University and deputy chairman of the Scientific Program Committee of the 19th International Congress in Nutrition 2009.
The experts are participating in a symposium to discuss the ?Impact of interventions to enhance zinc status? organized as a part of 19th International Congress of Nutrition (ICN 2009) held under the auspices of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences and hosted by the Nutrition Association of Thailand, and supported by Padaeng Industry Public Company Limited, one of the sponsors.
Over 3,500 nutritionists are attending the global summit on nutrition at BITEC from 4-9 October 2009 here in Thailand.. The delegates from all over the world share their latest research findings and exchange professional views on nutrition including the effects of zinc deficiency on children?s growth and development and the measures to prevent this zinc deficiency.
According to Prof. Dr. Kenneth Brown, adequate zinc nutrition is critically important for children?s health and the achievement of their full growth potential.
Our research findings indicate that preventive zinc supplementation reduces the incidence of diarrhea by approximately 27% among young children aged over 12 months and decreases the incidence of acute lower respiratory tract infections (like pneumonia) by at least 15%.
Preventive zinc supplementation also increases linear growth and weight gain of young children contributing to reduced rates of stunting and underweight,? said Prof. Dr. Brown paediatrician. He disclosed that the prevalence of stunting or poor linear growth seemed to be greater in the southern and northeastern regions of Thailand, and children in these areas may be at greater risk of zinc deficiency.
He also recommended that a number of dietary interventions, such as breast-feeding, could improve zinc status. ?Our research found that children breast-fed exclusively during the first six months of life are likely to receive sufficient zinc from the breast milk. The promotion and support of breast-feeding should be actively encouraged by public health and policy-makers to provide adequate zinc nutrition in young infants and children,? he said.
Prof. Rosalind Gibson emphasized that dietary strategies could also help reduce zinc deficiency.
Four dietary strategies can prevent inadequate intakes of dietary zinc and enhance zinc status in population groups who are at risk of zinc deficiency such as infants from 6 months of age, young children, pregnant and lactating women. The dietary strategies are: increasing the production and consumption of zinc-rich foods, reducing components in the diet known to inhibit the absorption of zinc, practising exclusive breast feeding for infants up to 6 months of age, and promoting safe and appropriate processed complementary foods at 6 months with continued breast-feeding?, said Prof. Gibson.
Prof. Gibson also pointed out that zinc can be sourced from foods such as oysters, red meat, chicken, fish, eggs, and milk.
Prof. Gibson also commented that zinc levels in breast milk appear adequate for exclusively breast-fed infants until six months of age, after which their diet must be augmented by complementary foods containing absorbable zinc from meat, fish, or poultry.
For countries with rice as the main staple food and a low content of zinc, there are methods to improve diets with the content of absorbable zinc by increasing meat, poultry or fish content of the daily diet.
Bio-fortification such as the use of zinc fertilizer to increase the zinc content of rice grown on low zinc soils or plant breeding to increase the zinc concentrations in cereal staples is also recommended as a measure to increase the zinc content of plant-based staples,? said Prof. Gibson.
Prof. Gibson also stated that a combination of dietary culturally accepted strategies should be designed with the collaboration of the communities as well as on-going evaluations to measure their positive effects. The dietary strategies that are appropriate and relevant to local communities should be integrated with poverty alleviation, food security and income generation programmes.
Assoc. Prof. Pattanee Winichagoon commented that for Thailand, proper daily nutrition is the best preventive and supportive measure to allow children nationwide to grow and develop at their full potential. Cooperation from related parties in the agricultural and food industries etc. can help improve children?s health through affordable and simple daily food that is rich in zinc and other nutrients essential for growth and development.
The Nutrition Association of Thailand and the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, with sponsorship by Padaeng Industry Public Company Limited, have organized a symposium on the impact of interventions to enhance zinc status for discussions among the delegates at the 19th International Congress of Nutrition. The symposium on Wednesday, 7th October 2009, at BITEC, is likely to be of high interest for the delegates because research findings on the benefits of zinc in treating diarrhea among young children will be presented for the first time.