e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Zinc supplementation in the management of diarrhoea

Diarrhoea remains a leading cause of death globally among children under five years of age. Diarrhoea contributes to nutritional deficiencies, reduced resistance to infections and impaired growth and development. Severe diarrhoea leads to fluid loss, and may be life-threatening, particularly in young children and people who are already malnourished or have impaired immunity.

Zinc is important for cellular growth, cellular differentiation and metabolism and deficiency limits childhood growth and decreases resistance to infections. Although severe zinc deficiency is rare in humans, mild to moderate deficiency may be common worldwide.

Zinc supplementation has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of diarrhoea, and to prevent subsequent episodes, although the mechanisms by which zinc exerts its anti-diarrhoeal effect are not fully understood.

WHO recommendations

Mothers, other caregivers and health workers should provide children with 20 mg per day of zinc supplementation for 10-14 days (10 mg per day for infants under the age of six months).

WHO documents

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines

Status: not currently available

Other guidance documents


Related Cochrane reviews
Other related systematic reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

15 June 2017 14:50 CEST

Category 2 intervention

Systematic review(s) have been conducted but no recent guidelines yet available that have been approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee

Biological, behavioural and contextual rationale

Essential Nutrition Actions

This intervention is an Essential Nutrition Action targeting the first 1000 days of life.

Global targets

Implementation of this intervention may contribute to the achievement of the following targets:

Global nutrition targets

Target 1: 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted