Particularly prevalent in developing nations where micro nutrient deficiency affects many, malaria is a leading cause of death amongst the young, responsible for at least 1 million deaths annually.
Whilst malaria is not as common in developed nations, these malaria studies show the importance of nutrients such as zinc and vitamin A for appropriate immune system development and function.
Zinc is crucial for appropriate growth and development and protein synthesis. Possible ramifications from zinc deficiency include impaired growth, compromised immune function and increased rates of infectious disease. Several cross sectional studies have shown a link between malaria incidence and zinc status.
Vitamin A status of people in developing countries tends to be low and can result in inadequate immune function. Vitamin A has been shown to reduce malaria parasite densites, severity of infection and febrile episodes.
A 2008 study on children aged up to six years, found that a combination of vitamin A and zinc supplementation significantly decreased malaria incidence and delayed malaria attacks in the supplemented group compared to placebo. A further study, published in recent months, sought to investigate whether these findings could be demonstrated in younger infants aged between 6 and 24 months. Randomly selected, 200 infants received zinc and vitamin A supplements or placebo daily for six months. Results showed that the number of children diagnosed with uncomplicated malaria was 27% lower in the intervention group compared to placebo.
- Owusu-Agyei S, Newton S, Mahama E, et al. Impact of vitamin A with zinc supplementation on malaria morbidity in Ghana. Nutr J 2013;12:131. [Full Text]