High Prevalence of Zinc Deficiency in Rural Nigerian Preschool Children: A Community-Based Cross-Sectional Study

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Background and Aims: In Nigeria, community-based epidemiological data related to the prevalence of zinc deficiency in preschool children are scarce. We assessed the prevalence of zinc deficiency and the associated socio-demographic variables in children aged between 6 and 60 months, living in a Nigerian rural community.

Materials and Methods: In this cross-sectional study, the serum zinc concentrations of 252 children aged between 6 and 60 months in a rural community in Nigeria were assessed, using atomic absorption spectrophotometry. The study population was selected by multistage random sampling and at least two children were selected from every household which had children in the study age group. The socio-demographic characteristics of the subjects were obtained, using an interviewer-administered questionnaire.

Results: A total of 252 children were studied, 134 (53.2%) males and 118 (46.8%) females. The mean age was 32.7±17.0 months, similar for both sexes. Overall, 220 (87.3%) had low serum zinc concentrations (less than 7.65µmol/L). According to age, the highest mean serum zinc concentration was 5.43±3.52µmol/L in children aged between 6 and 12 months. Correlation between serum zinc concentration and family size or socio-economic status (SES) showed that the smaller the family size and the higher the SES, the higher the serum zinc concentration.

Conclusions: The high prevalence of low serum zinc concentration indicates that zinc deficiency is a public health problem in our rural communities, requiring public health intervention.

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