Consequences of Zinc Deficiency in Developing Countries Evidence Derived from Zinc Supplementation Trials

In the context of developing country settings, present knowledge on the health consequences of zinc deficiency has been almost entirely derived from community-based trials of zinc supplementation among populations at possible risk of zinc deficiency. In these trials, individuals in the study population are randomly allocated to receive either a zinc supplement, usually in the form of tablets or syrups, or the same supplement format without zinc (i.e., placebo). The condition under study is then monitored for a given period (typically for 2 months to one year), and the occurrence of or change in the condition is compared between the zinc-supplemented group and the corresponding control group. Given that several other nutritional and environmental factors can influence the health conditions hypothesized to occur with zinc deficiency, such studies have been essential in demonstrating unequivocally the causal role of zinc deficiency in these conditions among human populations. The following section provides an overview of the population groups at elevated risk of zinc deficiency, and the health consequences associated with zinc deficiency, as concluded from these studies.

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