Dodging Diarrhea with Zinc

Diarrhea reduced with zinc supplements given to babies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Dominique Brooks, M.D

(RxWiki News) Diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses to occur in babies and young children. For babies who get it a lot, there may be an option to help reduce or prevent diarrhea.

A recent study found that two weeks of zinc supplements reduced the amount of diarrhea experienced in a group of babies.

The reduced diarrhea effect lasted at least five months.

The babies lived in an area where diarrhea is very common, so the zinc supplements may not be appropriate for all babies.

"Discuss supplements with your pediatrician."

The study, led by Akash Malik, MBBS, of the Department of Community Medicine at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, India, aimed to find out whether zinc supplements could help prevent diarrhea in babies.

The researchers divided a group of 272 babies, aged 6 to 11 months old, into two groups.

One group of 134 babies received 20 mg of zinc in a supplement (in liquid form) by mouth every day for two weeks.

The other group of 124 babies received a placebo, or fake preparation, in a liquid form that did not have any active ingredients.

The group of babies who took the zinc supplements had 39 percent fewer episodes of diarrhea and 39 percent fewer days with diarrhea over the following five months.

For the children receiving zinc supplements who got diarrhea, the diarrhea lasted 36 percent less time than the episodes experienced by the children getting the placebo.

The authors concluded that a short period of zinc supplements, for two weeks, might help reduce diarrhea in babies aged 6 to 11 months for up to five months if they are in a population that is prone to illness.

The study was conducted in India, so the findings may not relate completely to babies living in other countries.

If parents have a baby who frequently gets ill or has diarrhea, the parents should discuss zinc supplements and other treatments with their pediatricians.

The study was published June 3 in the journal Pediatrics.

The research was funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research, Department of Health Research (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) of the Government of India. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
June 2, 2013
Last Updated:
August 8, 2013