Sunday, August 31, 2014

Zinc Is Vital For Infant Growth

Zinc is an essential trace element for children’s health. It plays an important role in supporting a wide range of biological functions, including:
immune system health

  • skin, hair and nail strength
  • brain processing for taste, smell and appetite
  • activating growth and cell division in infants, children and teenagers

Worldwide, zinc deficiency is usually found among lower income populations and in many developing countries, where a normal diet is generally plant-based (lower zinc content). Global estimates of zinc deficiency by the World Health Organization are around 17% of the population, but figures can reach up to 25% and 29% for Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia respectively. Zinc deficiency symptoms include slowed growth, low insulin levels, loss of appetite, irritability, generalized hair loss, rough and dry skin, slow wound healing, poor sense of taste and smell, diarrhea, and nausea. Zinc supplementation is one of strategies used by public health officials to combat zinc deficiency and its consequences in children.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine takes a closer look at the relationship between zinc deficiency and infant growth. The goal of the study was to examine how zinc supplementation affects the linear growth of children 6-24 months of age and the feasibility of its implementation in the context of primary health care system.

According to the study:
Rural community health centers providing maternal and child care in two areas with moderate rates of malnutrition were randomly assigned to intervention and control groups, including 393 and 445 children 6-24 months of age, respectively. Children in both groups received routine iron and multivitamin or vitamin A and D supplements through PHC services. Mothers of children in the intervention group were asked to give a single dose of 5 ml/day zinc sulfate syrup (containing 5 mg elemental zinc) to their children for 3 months while children in the control group did not receive the supplement.
The study’s authors found a 0.5 cm difference in height in the group that received the supplement as compared with the control group. Zinc supplementation had no effect on either group’s weight.

The study concluded that oral zinc supplementation provided by primary health care workers was effective in increasing the linear growth rate of children less than 2 years of age.

The European Food Safety Authority has also concluded that there is scientific evidence to support health claims regarding the dietary intake of zinc, normal immune function, and normal DNA synthesis and cell division. Accordingly, zinc supplements have become an important part of immune system protection during the winter months in addition to supporting children’s growth.

This research demonstrates how vital trace elements like zinc are to proper growth and development for all children. Most kids who eat a balanced diet usually get enough of this mineral but parents of picky eaters should pay particular attention to zinc intake. Zinc deficiency can have serious consequences and all parents and doctors should be aware of them.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Treating Children’s Asthma with Magnesium

Chronic childhood asthma is a global public health challenge. According to World Health Organization estimates, it is the most commonly diagnosed chronic disease among children, with 235 million people currently suffering from the disease.

Asthma is often under-diagnosed and under-treated, which can create a substantial burden for children and families in terms of both cost and the need to limit sports and other physically demanding activities.
Standard asthma treatment usually takes a two-pronged approach: The “rescue” treatment which includes inhaled short-acting bronchodilators to relieve immediate symptoms such as shortness of breath, and the “maintenance” treatment, which includes the use of inhaled corticosteroids and leukotriene antagonist medications to help keep symptoms under long term control.

A new study published in the July issue of the Paediatric Respiratory Review suggests that magnesium should be added to the roster of conventional therapies for acute asthma in children. Acute asthma occurs when symptoms cannot be controlled with the treatments mentioned above and the patient must seek emergency treatment.

Until now, doctors have been uncertain as to whether magnesium is really an effective agent in relieving acute asthma symptoms. However, the authors of the study, Stephen Jacobe and Mon Ohn, now believe that there is accumulating evidence that either inhaled or intravenous magnesium is both safe and beneficial to children presenting with acute severe asthma. Further study is needed to determine the optimum dose and mode of administration.
These results are not all that surprising. A previous study from 2010 had concluded that adults who received oral magnesium supplements over a six month period showed marked improvement in asthma control and quality of life. This is in addition to a double-blind study from 2007 which demonstrated that children who received oral magnesium supplementation experienced improved bronchial health, fewer skin allergies and better symptom control when paired with inhaled fluticasone, a standard asthma medication.

Every child deserves to live a healthy and active life. We are pleased to hear that magnesium supplements are being integrated into standard asthma treatment for children and we look forward to further scientific research in this area.