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Open Access Effects of maternal zinc supplementation on pregnancy and lactation outcomes

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Observational studies in human populations suggest that maternal zinc deficiency during pregnancy may cause adverse pregnancy outcomes for the mother and fetus. Therefore, we reviewed the current evidence from studies of zinc supplementation, with or without other micronutrients, during pregnancy and lactation to assess its impact on maternal, fetal, and infant health.

A meta-analysis of supplementation trials indicates a 14% reduction in premature delivery among zinc-supplemented women. Most studies found no significant impact of maternal zinc supplementation on infant birthweight, but a subset of studies conducted in underweight or zinc-deficient women suggests that there may be a positive effect of zinc supplementation in such women. However, the number of relevant studies is limited, and more information is needed to confirm these observations. The results for other pregnancy outcomes are inconsistent, and the number of available studies is small. Likewise, the impact of maternal zinc supplementation during pregnancy on infant postnatal growth and risk of infection is variable, and few studies are available. Thus, more research will be needed to allow definitive conclusions to be drawn, especially for the second half of infancy and later childhood.

Studies found no adverse effects of maternal zinc supplementation on iron status during pregnancy. More information is required on other potential adverse effects, particularly with regard to a possible modifying effect of preexisting maternal zinc status.

In view of the possible benefits of zinc supplementation for reducing the risk of premature delivery, the possible positive impact of zinc supplementation on infant birthweight among undernourished women, and the lack of reported adverse effects, zinc should be included in maternal supplements given during pregnancy in populations at risk for zinc deficiency.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106
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