Zinc may spur growth in children with sickle cell anemia

By Charnicia E. Huggins

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Young sickle cell patients with delayed growth and maturation may benefit from zinc supplements, according to researchers.

"These findings suggest that children with sickle cell disease have increased zinc requirements that may not be met by their usual dietary intake," lead study author Dr. Babette S. Zemel, of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, told Reuters Health.

Previous study findings have indicated that zinc supplementation improves growth in healthy children who have mild growth failure. So Dr. Zemel and her colleagues evaluated its effect in 38 pre-pubertal children with sickle cell disease and poor growth. Six of the children were initially identified as having low concentrations of zinc in their blood.

The children, between the ages of 4 and 11 years old, were randomly assigned to receive either 10 milligrams of elemental zinc per day in cherry syrup or cherry syrup alone over the 12-month study period.

At follow-up, children who received zinc had significantly greater increases in height, sitting height, knee height and arm circumference than the controls, Dr. Zemel and colleagues report in the February issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

For example, children in the zinc group grew an average 0.66 cm more in height than did their peers during the study period. Furthermore, in a subgroup of children who were initially identified as short for their age, those in the zinc group grew 1.3 cm more in height than their peers in the control group.

In light of the findings, "zinc supplementation should be considered, especially among children with sickle cell disease who have poor growth," Dr. Zemel said.

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