Prevalence of zinc deficiency among primary school children in a poor peri-urban informal settlement in South Africa

  • FO Samuel
  • AA Egal
  • WH Oldewage-Theron
  • CE Napier
  • CS Venter
Keywords: deficiency, diet, poverty, vulnerable, zinc, prevalence


This cross-sectional study assessed the risk of zinc deficiency in randomly selected children, aged between 7 and 11 years, living in a poor, peri-urban informal settlement in South Africa. Dietary intake of 149 respondents was evaluated by 24-hour recall and quantitative food frequency questionnaires. Anthropometric and biochemical indices of a subset of 113 were determined. Descriptive statistics, analysis of variance and Pearson correlations were computed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences, version 14.0. Anthropometric data were analysed using the World Health Organization Anthro plus version 1.0.2 statistical software. Dietary data were analysed with FoodFinder® version 3. The mean age of the children was 9.0±1.1 years. Few zinc-rich sources appeared in the diet that was predominantly plant-based. Mean dietary zinc intake was 4.6±2.2 mg/day. The mean value of serum zinc was 66.4±21.5 μg/dL, with 46% of the children having values less than the 70 μg/dL cutoff. The findings indicate a high risk of zinc deficiency and suboptimal zinc status for the majority of this study population of children, possibly as a result of low consumption of food sources with high bioavailability of zinc, which invariably is a direct consequence of poverty and food insecurity.

Keywords: deficiency; diet; poverty; vulnerable; zinc; prevalence


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848