Zinc May Increase Stature in Some Growth Hormone-Deficient Children
Children with growth hormone (GH) deficiency who receive treatment with GH
may significantly increase their growth rate by supplementing with zinc,
according to a new study in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics
(2003;49:187-8). The benefits of zinc supplementation were limited to
GH-deficient children whose initial blood levels of zinc were low.
Healthnotes Newswire (October 16, 2003)
Growth hormone is the primary hormone responsible for the normal growth of
children. The deficiency of GH occurs in approximately 1 in 4,000 children.
Known causes of GH deficiency include infection, inherited predisposition,
trauma, and some types of brain tumors; however, in more than 66% of children with GH deficiency, the cause cannot be identified. The impairment in growth resulting from GH deficiency may begin in infancy or later in childhood. Most children with GH deficiency fall below the fiftieth
percentile on growth charts, compared with normal children. The current treatment is daily or weekly injections of GH by itself or in combination
with other hormones. While the treatment is effective, it is very expensive, costing up to $20,000 per year.
In the new study, 24 children between the ages of 5 and 13 years with GH
deficiency being treated with GH for at least one year received daily zinc
supplementation based on body weight (1 mg per kilogram per day) for six
months. Blood levels of zinc were measured in all children prior to zinc
treatment. Growth rate was also measured initially and at the conclusion of
Almost 46% of the children in the new study were initially found to be
deficient in zinc, while the other 54% had normal blood zinc levels. The
growth rate for the children with GH deficiency and zinc deficiency
increased from 5.98 cm per year to 7.51 cm per year, a statistically
significant change. However, no change was observed in GH deficient
children with normal zinc levels. The findings suggest that zinc increases
the effectiveness of GH therapy and that blood zinc levels may be useful in
determining which children may benefit most from zinc supplementation.
Studies have suggested that zinc deficiency by itself may cause poor
development and growth in infants and children. This is most often seen in
developing countries, where diets often lack adequate amounts of zinc. Even
in the United States, however, according to some studies, more than 50% of
people consume less than two-thirds of the recommended dietary allowance
(RDA) for zinc. Zinc deficiency may also be associated with decreased
immunity, impaired taste sensation, poor wound healing, weight loss, and
impaired vision. The RDA is 15 mg per day. Good sources of zinc include
meat, eggs, dairy products, seafood, black-eyed peas, tofu, and wheat germ.
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