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Children's Health | Zinc May Improve Growth In Children with Sickle Cell Disease

Zinc May Improve Growth In Children with Sickle Cell Disease

Children with sickle cell disease may experience greater growth rates and increased body mass by taking supplemental zinc, according to a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.1 Sickle cell disease is a genetic disease that causes abnormalities in the development of red blood cells and has been associated with poor growth and delayed maturation. Kids with sickle cell disease often have a deficiency of zinc, a potentially important nutrient for promoting normal growth.2 3

Researchers performed a year-long study in which 38 children with sickle cell disease were given 10 mg per day of supplemental zinc in cherry syrup, or the syrup alone (placebo). Six of these kids had low blood levels of zinc prior to starting treatment, although the authors fail to mention whether they received zinc or placebo as their treatment. The children were evaluated initially, and then every three months, for several measurements of growth, including height, sitting height, weight, size of upper arm, knee height, and bone mineral density.

The results showed that the children taking supplemental zinc had a significant increase in height, sitting height, and knee height, compared with those taking the placebo. The group taking zinc grew an average of 0.66 cm more than the placebo group. Those who had the lowest stature initially had a greater increase in growth rate than did the taller kids. There was no change in fat composition or dietary intake in either group.

Although it is not understood why children with sickle cell disease have zinc deficiency, the authors speculate that it may be due to chronic inflammation, increased demand for zinc as red blood cells are destroyed, decreased intake due to a poor diet, or inability to absorb zinc from the intestinal tract. Based on these findings, the researchers suggest that providing adequate nutrition and taking a daily supplement of zinc may improve growth in children with sickle cell disease.


1. Zemel BS, Kawchak DA, Fung EB, et al. Effect of zinc supplementation on growth and body composition in children with sickle cell disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:300–7.
2. Prasad AS. Zinc deficiency in patients with sickle cell disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2002;75:181–2.
3. Brown KH, Peerson JM, Allen LH. Effect of zinc supplementation on children’s growth: a meta-analysis of intervention trials. Bibl Nutr Dieta 1998;54:76–83.

Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Westport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.

Copyright © 2002 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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The health information contained in this site is not intended as medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for appropriate medical care. Any products mentioned in studies cited in Healthnotes articles are not necessarily endorsed by Bastyr. As with any product, consult with a natural health practitioner to discuss what may be best for you.


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