Biological Trace Element Research

, Volume 49, Issue 2–3, pp 211–225 | Cite as

Clinical and laboratory assessment of zinc deficiency in Dutch children

A review
  • Jacobus P. Van Wouwe
Original Articles


The clinical spectrum of acrodermatitis enteropathica (n=226) is compared with symptoms reported in other Zn deficiencies: total parenteral nutrition without Zn (n=21), protein energy malnutrition (n=24), gastrointestinal disease (n=79), geophagia (n=227), and dietary, low intake (n=23). Common features of deficiency are diarrhea, recurrent infection, and growth retardation. Dermatitis is less common in other types of deficiency than in acrodermatitis enteropathica (9 vs 88% of cases). Anorexia and/or hypogeusia is reported more frequently in the other types of deficiency (30 vs 16%). The main symptoms in acrodermatitis enteropathica vary with age. These differences in the clinical picture of Zn deficiency are discussed in relation to the degree of the deficiency (acute, subacute, or chronic; severe, mild, or subclinical).

The results of the conventional laboratory tests to diagnose Zn deficiency (Zn levels in serum, urine or hair) are reviewed. In healthy Dutch infants and children, the mean values of these levels vary by a factor of 1.6–3.0. Also, the clinical interpretation of their results is prone to errors. Therefore, we advocate the erythrocytic65Zn uptake test. Its mean varies by 1.3. However, its reference values for different age intervals need to be established.

From the comparison of the results of three conventional tests of samples taken concurrently (serum, urine, and hair) in groups of Dutch children with symptoms common in Zn deficiency (diarrhea, recurrent infection, or growth retardation) it is estimated that ±1% of Dutch children with minor complaints suffer from either acute or subacute Zn deficiency. Other deficiencies occur occasionally.

In order to detect the individual patient with deficiency, the erythrocytic65Zn uptake test is promising and needs to be evaluated. Therefore, we review a set of reference laboratory tests with results that alter during sequential stages of overload and deficiency. Such a scheme is advocated as a guidance for future clinical research on deficiency, and solves the problem of differentiating those conditions that identify the individual patients who need treatment by supplementation.

Index Entries

Zinc deficiency Dutch children acrodermatitis enteropathica clinical symptoms laboratory assessment serum zinc urine zinc hair zinc saliva zinc erythrocytic zinc uptake set of reference tests 


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Copyright information

© Humana Press Inc 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacobus P. Van Wouwe
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PediatricsDrechtsteden Hospital “Jacobus,”Zwijndrechtthe Netherlands

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