Infant malnutrition and mortality rates are high in less-developed countries, especially in low-birthweight infants. Zinc deficiency is also common in these circumstances.
Saskia Osendarp formerly from the International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh, and colleagues aimed to assess the effect of daily zinc supplements given to pregnant mothers on their infants' growth and health outcomes.
199 and 221 Bangladeshi infants whose mothers took 30 mg daily elemental zinc, or placebo, respectively, from 12 to 16 weeks' gestation until delivery, were studied.
|Reduced risk of morbidities in infants whose mothers received zinc:|
Infants were followed up until 6 months of age.
At age 6 months, infants of mothers who received zinc during pregnancy had a 16% reduced risk, compared with those in the placebo group for acute diarrhea, a 64% reduced risk of dysentery, and around a 50% reduced risk of impetigo.
These reductions were seen in low-birthweight infants, but not in those with normal birthweight.
There were no differences in infant growth or serum zinc concentrations between treatment groups.
Saskia Osendarp comments, "Our results show a positive and clinically relevant effect of maternal zinc supplementation during pregnancy on infant morbidity, especially in low-birthweight infants, and might potentially contribute to a reduction in the disadvantaged health outcomes of these infants.
"Our findings could have important implications for child health and survival programs in less-developed countries, and, consequently, consideration should be given to the addition of zinc to regular antenatal supplements in regions with a high prevalence of low birthweight".