Zinc deficiency and toxicity in pediatric practice : Current Opinion in Pediatrics

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Zinc deficiency and toxicity in pediatric practice

Willoughby, Jennifer L.; Bowen, Christine N.

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Current Opinion in Pediatrics 26(5):p 579-584, October 2014. | DOI: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000000132


Purpose of review 

Zinc is a commonly overlooked deficiency in developed countries, occurring in infants, children, and adolescents during critical growth periods. The purpose of this review is to present the evidence of zinc deficiencies and toxicities as well as treatment in pediatrics.

Recent findings 

During the last decade, the significance of zinc deficiency in childhood growth, morbidity, and mortality has been recognized by a number of large-scale supplementation trials in underdeveloped countries. Recognition of the recent nationwide shortage of injectable zinc available for total parenteral nutrition supplementation over the last 2 years focused attention on the possibility of zinc deficiency in the United States.


Although primarily thought of as a problem reserved for underdeveloped countries, zinc deficiency has increasing pediatric prevalence in the USA. Zinc is an essential trace element in the body that is responsible for numerous structural, catalytic, and biochemical functions. Deficiencies can occur because of poor dietary intake, long-term parenteral nutrition without supplementation, and enteral causes such as malabsorption. Zinc deficiency is closely associated with stunting, respiratory infections, diarrhea, and dermatitis. Deficiency is hard to define solely by the serum levels. Clinicians should utilize a combination of serum zinc levels, presenting signs and symptoms, and nutritional intake via oral, enteral, and parenteral routes to accurately assess the deficiency risk and diagnosis.

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

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