Soil Zinc Is Associated with Serum Zinc But Not with Linear Growth of Children in Ethiopia

Masresha Tessema*, Hugo De Groote, Inge D. Brouwer, Edith J.M. Feskens, Tefera Belachew, Dilnesaw Zerfu, Adamu Belay, Yoseph Demelash, Nilupa S. Gunaratna

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


To our knowledge, the relationships among soil zinc, serum zinc and children's linear growth have not been studied geographically or at a national level in any country. We use data from the cross-sectional, nationally representative Ethiopian National Micronutrient Survey (ENMS) (n = 1776), which provided anthropometric and serum zinc (n = 1171) data on children aged 6⁻59 months. Soil zinc levels were extracted for each child from the digital soil map of Ethiopia, developed by the Africa Soil Information Service. Children's linear growth was computed using length/height and age converted into Z-scores for height-for-age. Multi-level mixed linear regression models were used for the analysis. Nationally, 28% of children aged 6⁻59 months were zinc deficient (24% when adjusted for inflammation) and 38% were stunted. Twenty percent of households in the ENMS were located on zinc-deficient soils. Soil zinc (in mg/kg) was positively associated with serum zinc (in µg/dL) (b = 0.9, p = 0.020) and weight-for-height-Z-score (b = 0.05, p = 0.045) but linear growth was not associated with soil zinc (p = 0.604) or serum zinc (p = 0.506) among Ethiopian preschool children. Intervention studies are needed to determine whether there are causal links between soil and human zinc status.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2019


  • Ethiopia
  • linear growth
  • preschool children
  • serum zinc
  • soil fertility
  • soil zinc


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