Children with sickle cell disease (SCD) are normal sized at birth, but often experience growth deficits and delayed development, which may result from chronic under-nutrition, and in particular zinc deficiency.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has published a recent study which evaluated the long-term effects on growth of zinc supplements on children aged 4-10 years.
Of the 38 children studied by the researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, 24 were short for their age while six had low levels of zinc in their blood when the study began. The children were given either 10 mg/day of elemental zinc in 5ml of cherry syrup or 5ml cherry syrup alone.
At the start of the research, the children were measured for height and sitting height, body composition, and skin fold thickness. The same measurements were then repeated after three, six and 12 months. The researchers found that there were significant improvements in the height and sitting height of the children of children taking the zinc supplements for the full 12-month period.
Those children who had initially been short for their age and who took the zinc supplements grew by 1.3cm more than their counterparts in the control group, the researchers found. At the same time, the steady decline in height-for-age and weight-for-age which are typical of SCD were not seen in those children taking the zinc supplements.