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Low Levels of Zinc in Hair, Anorexia, Poor Growth, and Hypogeusia in Children


Extract: Concentrations of zinc in hair were determined for 338 apparently normal subjects living in Denver with ages ranging from 0–40 years. Mean concentrations of zinc in hair were: neonates (25) 174 ± 8 (1 sem); 3 months-4 years (93) 88 ± 5; 4–17 years (132) 153 ± 5, and 17–40 years (88) 180 ±4. Ten children more than 4 years of age had levels of zinc in hair of less than 70 ppm. Seven of these ten children had a history of poor appetite and eight had heights on or below the 10th percentile; the high incidence of low growth percentiles was not explicable on a familial basis. Taste acuity was tested in six of these children, and five had evidence of objective hypogeusia. After supplementing the diet with small quantities of zinc, taste acuity was normalized in each of these children and levels of zinc in hair increased.

Speculation: The correlation between low levels of zinc in hair, anorexia, and low growth percentiles in these children indicates that poor appetite and growth, in addition to the hypogeusia, may have been attributable to zinc deficiency. The low mean concentration of zinc in hair of infants and children under 4 years of age indicates that stores of zinc in the body may be low in this age group.

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Correspondence to K Michael Hambidge.

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Hambidge, K., Hambidge, C., Jacobs, M. et al. Low Levels of Zinc in Hair, Anorexia, Poor Growth, and Hypogeusia in Children. Pediatr Res 6, 868–874 (1972).

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  • Hair
  • hypogeusia
  • nutrition
  • trace elements
  • zinc

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