What we eat affects our health. Zinc is an essential nutrient that has many functions in the body, including being critical for optimal operation of the immune system. We know that getting enough zinc can be useful for preventing and treating diarrhea. We know that it can be effective for preventing respiratory infections, including pneumonia.
Might zinc supplements be useful as a extra medicine when treating kids with pneumonia? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the Centre for Health and Population research studied 270 young children from Bangladesh with severe pneumonia. Half received antibiotics and 20 mg of zinc; the other half received antibiotics and a counterfeit that looked like zinc. The results were published in the May 22, 2004 Lancet. Those treated with zinc did much better, with more rapid improvement of severe symptoms, and hospital stays that averaged a full day shorter. More work needs to be done on this, but I suspect the benefit is more profound in kids who are zinc deficient. Putting this in perspective, the USDA’s “What We Eat in America” survey reported that over 62% of young children here do not get enough zinc in their diets.