No clear evidence that zinc supplements cut middle ear infections risk

February 18th, 2010 - 4:30 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Feb 18 (ANI): Consumption of zinc supplements may not necessarily cut down risk of middle ear infections or otitis media among children, a new study claims.

Katherine Abba, with the International Health Group of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in England assessed different studies on the advantages of zinc supplements intake.

They found that in one small study of severely malnourished children, zinc supplements reduced middle-ear infection, while in another study of healthy infants living in a poor urban community, those who received zinc supplements showed a lower incidence of middle ear infections.

However, Abba claims that these studies do not provide enough evidence of the significance of zinc supplements to the curing of the disease.

Abba said, “These studies should be viewed with caution. While there is some evidence that zinc supplementation is beneficial, further research using rigorous randomized trial designs would be worthwhile.”

Also, Richard M. Rosenfeld, M.D., chairman of otolaryngology at Long Island College Hospital and chairman of otolaryngology at SUNY, added: “Despite my experience, this is the first time I have heard of zinc as a preventive measure. I have no direct clinical experience with zinc and have not encountered patients using it.”

“I doubt that any quantity of zinc would change eustachian tube function in a clinically meaningful way. The positive effect in severely malnourished children likely relates to an impact on immune system function, not the Eustachian tube.”

He added: “An accurate diagnosis of otitis media is notoriously difficult to make, particularly in small wiggly infants,” Heatley said. “Studies that consider otitis media diagnosis their primary outcome have to decide how they are making the diagnosis such as visually, with tympanograms or other methods.”

Diane Heatley, M.D., of the division of pediatric otolaryngology with University of Wisconsin-Madison, also does not use zinc implementation in her practice.

She said: “An accurate diagnosis of otitis media is notoriously difficult to make, particularly in small wiggly infants.

Studies that consider otitis media diagnosis their primary outcome have to decide how they are making the diagnosis such as visually, with tympanograms or other methods.

“There is no blood test or X-ray that will make the diagnosis. The review did not have the diagnostic rigor to report an accurate incidence of otitis media in their participants.”Rosenfeld concluded: “The fact that there was only one study with a significant impact of zinc (39 patients), is meaningless. More telling is that the larger studies which had a low risk of bias, consistently did not find a difference.

“Many of the listed studies said some people had problems with vomiting or regurgitation with zinc supplements. That clearly makes zinc supplements inappropriate for preventing otitis in the absence of benefit.” (ANI)

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