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Human zinc deficiency: discovery to initial translation



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Adv Nutr. 2013 Jan 1;4(1):76-81. doi: 10.3945/an.112.003186.

Human zinc deficiency: discovery to initial translation.

Sandstead HH1.


Ananda S Prasad first suspected zinc deficiency in 1958 after he, at the request of James A Halsted, evaluated a patient with severe iron deficiency.

In addition to iron deficiency, the patient appeared ∼10 y old and was severely stunted and prepubertal, though his chronological and bone age were much older. He also had hepatosplenomegaly and ate clay. The condition was not rare in that 11 cases were reported.

In 1961 Prasad joined the Vanderbilt Nutrition Group led by William J. Darby at the US Naval Medical Research Unit-3, Cairo, Egypt. Prasad et al. studied 40 males similar to the index case. Contrasts with the index case included no clay eating and infection with schistosomiasis and hookworm.

Zinc kinetics confirmed the zinc deficiency. Endocrine studies showed hypopituitarism.

Treatment with zinc and an omnivorous diet was more efficacious for growth than no treatment, diet alone, or iron and diet.

Later, Halsted et al. confirmed these findings in stunted Iranian farmers. The key role of diet in the illness became evident when Prasad found 16 severely stunted farmers from 2 oases who were not infected with schistosomiasis or hookworm. Later, Reinhold et al., in Halsted's group, reported that phytate and other indigestible zinc-binding ligands in unleavened bread prepared from high-extraction wheat flour suppress zinc absorption.



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