Food and Behaviour Research

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Zinc status and its association with the health of adolescents: a review of studies in India.

Kawade R. (2012) Glob Health Action.  5: 7353. doi: 10.3402/gha.v5i0.7353. Epub 2012 Apr 12. 

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BACKGROUND: Zinc is important in adolescence because of its role in growth and sexual maturation. Adolescents from developing countries such as India may be at high risk of zinc deficiency because of unwholesome food habits and poor bioavailability of zinc from plant-based diets.

OBJECTIVE: (1) to study zinc status and its association with profile of other micronutrients, (2) to construct a simple tool in the form of Adolescent Micronutrient Quality Index (AMQI) to assess quality of diets of the girls and (3) to examine the effect of zinc supplement on health of adolescent girls.

METHODS: Girls (10-16 years) from two secondary schools of Pune, Maharashtra state, in Western India were enrolled in a cross-sectional study (n = 630). Data were collected on dietary intake, cognitive performance, taste acuity, haemoglobin, erythrocyte zinc and plasma levels of zinc, vitamin C, β-carotene and retinol. AMQI was developed using age-sex-specific Indian dietary guidelines and healthy foods and habits described in the recent US dietary guidelines. Zinc-rich recipes were developed considering habitual diets of the girls and vegetarian sources of zinc. An intervention trial (n = 180) was conducted to assess the effect of zinc-rich dietary supplements and ayurvedic zinc (Jasad) supplementation.

RESULTS: Prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies was high in these girls. Poor cognitive performance was seen in half of the girls, and salt taste perception was affected in 45%. AMQI was correlated with nutrient intakes and blood micronutrient levels (p < 0.01), indicating the potential of AMQI to measure micronutrient quality of diets of adolescent girls. Results of the intervention trial indicated that supplementation of zinc-rich recipes vis-a-vis ayurvedic Jasad zinc has the potential to improve plasma zinc status, cognitive performance and taste acuity in adolescent girls.

CONCLUSIONS: Review of the studies on Indian adolescent girls demonstrates the necessity of adopting zinc and micronutrient-rich diets for positive health building in adolescents.