Washington, July 30 : Zinc supplementation is beneficial for kids suffering from diarrhoea in developing countries, but only if they're over six months old, according to a group of researchers.
The study supports World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for the treatment of diarrhoea with zinc, although not in the very young.
"Zinc is clearly of benefit to children with diarrhoea," says lead researcher Marzia Lazzerini, who works at the Unit of Research on Health Services and International Health in Trieste, Italy.
Diarrhoea is a common cause of death for children in the developing world, occurring most often in children aged between six months and five years.
Zinc is a micronutrient that plays a critical role in physical growth as well as in gastrointestinal and immune function.
Its main dietary sources are red meat, fish and dairy products, but these are costly and in short supply in many developing countries.
In the study, the Cochrane Researchers identified 18 trials of zinc treatment that together involved 6,165 people from Asia, South America and Africa.
Collectively the trials show that zinc is effective in reducing the duration of diarrhoea in children aged between six months and five years. Below six months, two large trials involving 1,334 children, in three continents found no effect.
Lazzerini said: "These studies back up previous research that shows zinc can play an important role in restoring children with diarrhoea to full health.
"No conclusions regarding zinc''s impact on hospitalization or death could be drawn form the trials, but given these results it''s expected that a policy of zinc supplementation during diarrhoea in the community could also reduce hospitalization rate and mortality."