BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 00:45 GMT
Zinc boosts sickle cell children
Sickle cells cannot travel through blood vessels easily
Sickle cells cannot travel through blood vessels easily
Zinc boosts growth in children affected by sickle cell disease, a study has shown.

Although children with the disease are normal sized at birth, they often experience growth deficits and delayed development.

These results provide further evidence that zinc deficiency resulting in growth retardation is a major clinical problem in patients with sickle cell disease

Dr Ananda Prasad, Wayne Street University, Detroit

This can be due to chronic undernutrition, particularly zinc deficiency which can also affect adult patients.

But researchers from the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia found taking zinc supplements prevented the gradual growth failure associated with sickle cell disease.

The research is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Inherited disorder

Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited blood disorder, which largely affects Afro-Caribbean and Asian patients, and is named after the distinctive shape formed by red blood cells.

The shape is affected because a protein within the cells - haemoglobin which carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body - is different to normal.

Sickled cells stick together and link into long fibres, which means they cannot get through small blood vessels as easily as healthy cells.

This can stop oxygen getting through, and cause damage to organs, or, in some cases, strokes.

The US study looked at 38 children aged between four and 10.

Twenty-four were short in stature for their age, and six had low zinc levels when the study began.

They were randomly given either 10 mg per day of zinc in cherry syrup, or cherry syrup alone.

Researchers measured height, both standing and body composition before entry into the study and after three, six and 12 months.

Height boost

Those children who had received zinc supplements showed significantly increased rates of growth in height and sitting height after 12 months.

In the group of 24 who were short in stature for their age, those who had zinc supplements grew 1.3 cm more in height than those who did not.

Children who took zinc did not experience the significant declines in height-for-age and weight-for-age scores seen in the other group, which are typical of the gradual growth failure associated with sickle cell disease.

Writing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dr Ananda Prasad, of Wayne Street University, Detroit, said: "These results provide further evidence that zinc deficiency resulting in growth retardation is a major clinical problem in patients with sickle cell disease."

Dr Asa'ah Nkohkwo, secretary of the UK SickleCell Society told BBC News Online: "Over the last couple of years, our news desk has received an increasing number of reports on the use of complementary medicine products, the active ingredients of which remain questionable.

"Some of these products have reportedly provided much welcomed relief to users, worthy of endorsement therefore on the sole grounds of improving the quality of life of sickle-cell sufferers, while the search for a cure continues.

"This US research suggests that, as a micro-nutrient, dietary zinc could enhance growth in sickle-cell disease, a finding that may well begin to lend credence to the growing use of complementary medicine products, most often concentrations of some of these micro-nutrients, including zinc."

See also:

17 Jun 01 | Health
Sickle cell transplant hope
23 Nov 00 | Health
GP tackles sickle cell anaemia
06 Mar 00 | Health
Racism claim on blood research
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories