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Role of Zinc in Treatment of Sickle Cell Disease


The sickle cell disease is among the top sicknesses responsible for high morbidity and mortality rate in the world. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 2.3% of the world population are carriers of sickle cell disease. 

Due to the immigration of several ethnic groups from one region of the world to the other, it is ensured that sickle cell carriers are found all over the world.

A good and easily available supplement for treatment of the sickle cell disease is zinc. This is why proper evaluation of the roles of zinc supplementation in tackling this disease is very important to decrease death rates, primarily caused by complications.

 A high number of children and adults suffering from sickle cell disease are zinc-deficient, and when there is a lack or low amount of zinc in the body, especially that of sickle cell patients, impaired immunity and an increased risk of infections can be the resultant effects. 

Zinc supplementation has significantly shown a decreased effect on the risk of infection in children and adolescents. Zinc is safe, not expensive and easy to use.

Zinc as a mineral plays a critical role in the immune system as it contributes to the first line of defence against infections and diseases. When there is a deficiency of zinc in the body, the epidermal cells, the gastrointestinal and pulmonary tract can be damaged. 

It can also lead to an impairment of many mediators of host immunity, including interference with the normal functioning of natural killer cells, neutrophils, B lymphocytes, T helper 1 cytokines, T lymphocytes and macrophages. Zinc is also referred to as a second messenger of immune cells. 

It is an antioxidant, an antimicrobial agent, as well as an inflammatory agent.

By Research has discovered that there is more zinc deficiency from urinary zinc loss than from dietary deficiency. 

Urinary zinc loss is probably caused by the impairment of the renal tubular reabsorption of zinc, which is presumed as the effect of tubular damage from Sickle cell anaemia (SCA). It was also found out that bone degradation, majorly during painful vaso-occlusive crisis (VOC) can lead to an increase in the release of zinc and subsequently a loss in the urine. This further depletes zinc in the body.

Hence, zinc supplementation helps to decrease incidences of vaso-occlusion in sickle cell disease patients. This is very phenomenal because vaso-occlusion causes complex biochemical, neurological and electrochemical events that result in acute pains, which is the major source of crisis and hospital admissions of sickle cell disease patients.

“Many children with sickle cell disease suffer from slow or stunted growth, but a new study shows that simply adding zinc to their diet can increase height and weight.” Grow by WebMD 2002, Zinc Helps Sickle Cell Kids Grow, accessed 03March 2021, <>

In a study, researchers recorded the long-term effects of zinc supplementation among many children. The kids fed with the supplement were found to grow taller than those who were not supplemented.

Some dietary sources of zinc are:

  • ·       Oysters
  • ·         Pumpkin seeds
  • ·         Oats
  • ·         Walnuts etc.

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