Zinc supplementation during pregnancy and effects on growth and morbidity in low birthweight infants: A randomised placebo controlled trial

Saskia J.M. Osendarp, Joop M.A. Van Raaij, Gary L. Darmstadt, Abdullah H. Baqui, Joseph G.A.J. Hautvast, George J. Fuchs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


Background: Infant malnutrition and mortality rates are high in less-developed countries especially in low-birthweight infants. Zinc deficiency is also widely prevalent in these circumstances. We aimed to assess the effect of daily zinc supplements given to pregnant mothers on their infants' growth and morbidity. Methods: We did a double-blind, placebo controlled, randomised trial in 199 and 221 Bangladeshi infants whose mothers took 30 mg daily elemental zinc or placebo, respectively, from 12 to 16 weeks' gestation until delivery. Infants were followed up until 6 months of age. We obtained data for morbidity every week by mothers' recall. Infants' anthropometric measurements were done every month, and their serum zinc was assessed at 1 and 6 months of age. Findings: Infants of mothers who received zinc during pregnancy had at age 6 months reduced risks compared with those in the placebo group for acute diarrhoea (risk ratio 0·84; 95% CI 0·72-0·98), dysentery (0·36; 0·25-0·84), and impetigo (0·53; 0·34-0·82). These reductions were seen in low-birthweight infants but not in those with normal birthweight. There were no differences in infant growth or serum zinc concentrations between treatment groups. Interpretation: Maternal zinc supplementation during pregnancy resulted in a reduction of the health risks in Bangladeshi low-birthweight infants, although this intervention did not improve birthweight. Whether zinc should be added to usual antenatal supplements in regions with high rates of low birthweight should be reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1080-1085
Number of pages6
JournalThe Lancet
Issue number9262
StatePublished - Apr 7 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all the participating women and their infants for their collaboration and field staff under supervision of Hasan Mahmud and Fahmida Tofail. ACME Ltd Bangladesh provided and donated the zinc and placebo supplements. We thank Lars-Åke Persson for his advice on the statistical analyses. This study was conducted at ICDDR,B: Center for Health and Population Research with a grant from the Royal Netherlands Government (activity number: RISC, BD009602). ICDDR,B thanks the Royal Netherlands Government for supporting the Centre's research efforts.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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