Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Acute lower respiratory infections in childhood: opportunities for reducing the global burden through nutritional interventions

Daniel E Roth, Laura E Caulfield, Majid Ezzati, Robert E Black

Inadequate nutrition and acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) are overlapping and interrelated health problems affecting children in developing countries. Based on a critical review of randomized trials of the effect of nutritional interventions on ALRI morbidity and mortality, we concluded that: (1) zinc supplementation in zinc-deficient populations prevents about one-quarter of episodes of ALRI, which may translate into a modest reduction in ALRI mortality; (2) breastfeeding promotion reduces ALRI morbidity; (3) iron supplementation alone does not reduce ALRI incidence; and (4) vitamin A supplementation beyond the neonatal period does not reduce ALRI incidence or mortality. There was insufficient evidence regarding other potentially beneficial nutritional interventions. For strategies with a strong theoretical rationale and probable operational feasibility, rigorous trials with active clinical case-finding and adequate sample sizes should be undertaken. At present, a reduction in the burden of ALRI can be expected from the continued promotion of breastfeeding and scale-up of zinc supplementation or fortification strategies in target populations.