Trace Elements in the Hair of Healthy and Malnourished Children

Pre-school age children from tbe metropolitan area of Guadaljara, Mexico, consisting of 47 malnourished children were evaluated for mineral status by hair samples and nutritional status by anthropometric measurements and haemoglobin levels. Hair minerals were determined by either atomic absorption spectroscopy or instrumental neutron activation analysis. Malnourished children had significantly lower hair zinc while the iron and copper levels were significantly higher. Hair concentrations of calcium, magnesium, and manganese were not significantly different between healthy and malnourished children. Sixty per cent of the malnourished children's haemoglobin values were either marginal or deficient while 45 per cent of the haematocrits readings were either marginal or deficient Malnourished children in weight for-age category were 81 per cent malnourished; by weight-for-height 55 per cent were malnourished and by beight-for-age 59 per cent were malnourished. The overall nutritional status of malnourished children
can be characterized as mild to severe malnutrition with a chronic stunting of growth. Hair zinc values were a good indicator of nutritional status.

Charles W. Weber, PhD, George W. Nelson, PhD, Martha Vasquez de Vaquera, MD, and Paul B. Pearson, PhD (Journal of Tropical Pediatrics Vol. 36 October 1990)