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Saturday, 7 April, 2001, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
Zinc boost 'helps weakest babies'
Bangladeshi woman
Bangladesh: Legacy of poor nutrition
Adding zinc to the diet during pregnancy could dramatically cut the health problems faced by low weight babies, say scientists.

A study found that giving women the zinc supplement during pregnancy meant that their babies were less likely to suffer from diarrhoea, dysentery and impetigo.

The research was carried out in Bangladesh, which has a history of poor nutrition - leading to zinc deficiency.

The scientists from Dhaka studied over 400 infants whose mothers had been given a zinc supplement or a placebo during pregnancy and found the supplement particularly helped those babies with the lowest birthweights.


Our findings could have important implications for child health and survival programmes in less-developed countries

Saskia Osendarp, formerly from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh

The women were given the supplements from three or four months gestation right up until delivery.

The babies were then studied at six months old, and scientists found that those children whose mothers had taken zinc had a 16% lower risk of developing acute diarrhoea, a 64% reduced risk of dysentery and half the risk of impetigo.

But they found no differences among babies of normal birth weight.

Study author Saskia Osendarp, formerly from the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Dhaka, Bangladesh and now based in the Netherlands, said she hoped the results of the study could now be used to help improve child survival rates in developing countries.

Ms Osendarp said the countries should consider introducing zinc into the daily diet of pregnant women in countries where nutrition levels were poor.

She said the findings "could have important implications for child health and survival programmes in less-developed countries".

See also:

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